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Hugh Jackman In Concert: London O2 Arena (and touring)

June 12, 2019

(seen at the performance on 4th June 2019)

First visit to the O2 Arena, first time seeing Hugh Jackman live in concert. Want to guess which was the more impressive? You got it.

18,000 seats take some filling for a one-off. For a week, that’s quite a feat even without a recent mega-hit movie and stellar career. And he pretty much lives up to the billing of “The Greatest Showman.”

That title opens the show, with great use of a centre floor runway bringing those in the corners of this vast auditorium an inch or three closer. Inventive video doesn’t just follow the show on side screens, but takes the entire back wall of the stage, “Come Alive” it does as a talented team of 20 dancers augmented by a local Gospel Choir take to the floor as required.

A neat “Beauty and the Beast” tribute (great animation on screen, fun live choreography echoing the movie); and back to a fabulous Jerome Kern cover of “The Way You Look Tonight” for his wife. A little “Little Richard” up next, before “You Will Be Found” is an accurate career thought.

Wonderful story about his father leads into “Soliloquy” from “Carousel.” Truthfully, not the sincerest rendition ever, but interestingly the very young ladies in the seats next to me were as mesmerised by the older songs as the new, wonderful to see.

Keala Settle herself brings the house down with “This Is Me,” and it really is. Huge personality, even bigger voice, even more enormous spirit.

A “Les Misérables” interlude has West End favourite Jenna Lee James delivering “I Dreamed a Dream” as well as anybody singing an intimate internal monologue in the centre of an aircraft hanger can. That her meaning hit the back wall is confirmation enough of her abilities, and the white dress is a triumph. The man himself takes on “Valjean’s Soliloquy” and “One Day More” to take the show into a well-timed (literally) interval.

Second half kicks off with a tribute to writer Paul Allen, with “Not The Boy Next Door” and the wonderful “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do).” With “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” “I Honestly Love You,” “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage” and “I Go to Rio” – complete with the best costumes of the night – it’s a nice interlude and insight into Jackman, the man.

Best song of the night, “Tenterfield Saddler,” Peter Allen’s biographical work is a moving moment of truthful peace, before “A Million Dreams” takes us back to the present in sparkling fashion, with beautiful signing throughout.

The golden movie musicals are celebrated with “Luck Be a Lady,” “Singin’ in the Rain,,” a particularly well done “I Got Rhythm,” “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” and “Sing Sing Sing” perfectly choreographed and lit with a lovely nod to the times.

A tribute to Australia has Native Australian visitors deliver “Art Song” and “Inhibition,” before Jackman gives us “Over The Rainbow.”

A slightly under-powered “Mack The Knife” goes to the ‘two song warning’ (you had to be there) and “From Now On” gets the audience up. Closing on “Once Before I Go” the lights from phones provide a twinkling universe as the night sky falls.

There’s no doubting the charisma, energy and skill of the man. With the sound reverberation too noticeable, and the greed of both the promoter (£25 for a programme, you are “‘avin’ a giraffe,” as locals would put it) and venue owner noticeable at every turn, the honesty of the leading man and cast shone through.

A fine event, and hopefully we will see Mr Jackman again in London some time, maybe in a more intimate setting. Either way, I think I’ll be there.

 

4 stars.

4 Comments
  1. Francesca Collis permalink
    June 12, 2019 9:46 am

    Once again, we’ve attended the same performance! I agree with your comments on the show. I also couldn’t believe the programme cost and I felt sorry for the parents of young children who clearly felt obliged to buy them something! We, like many other people, asked if we could look at the programme, flicked through and then handed it back! It was our first visit to the 02. We were stunned by the draconian attitude to taking food and drink inside. We were warned in advance so we had emptied our bottles of water and (sneakily) transferred our single bars of chocolate (for the journey home) into our coat pockets. But many people were not so aware. In our queue, a woman had a single polo at the bottom of a packet confiscated. Another woman had her entire handbag emptied out, two half-drunk bottles of water thrown straight into the bin, with no offer to tip the water out and return the bottles for refilling. She also had two new packets of Maltesers. With no warning, these were also thrown into the bin. Her boyfriend was livid and asked why they weren’t given the option to eat the sweets or find someone in the adjoining cinema to donate them too. And we were all stunned that so much unopened food was just being dumped. The waste was staggering! When we got in (thrilled that we’d successfully smuggled our chocolate in) we went to find somewhere to refill our water bottles since we had no intention of buying an overpriced plastic bottle of water. Nothing was available. No jugs, no drinking water taps anywhere. I eventually went up to one of the food counters, bypassed the lengthy queues, politely called a server over and asked for tap water to refill our three bottles. He was perplexed but, to be fair, he did so. I asked if there was any policy on supplying water since evryone had their water taken away from them on entry. He admitted there was none. Honestly this is shocking. We thought Hugh Jackman came across as a lovely, warm sincere man and very talented. But we’ll avoid the 02 like the plague in future…

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      June 12, 2019 10:17 am

      LOL, no way! I was in block 111, where were you?

      I didn’t see any children pestering, luckily, but for sure it would be awkward for parents. Didn’t flick through the programme, just thought “will pick one up for a quid on Ebay in a year or so.” Like you, I put a few sweets in a pocket and was angry about the huge bins. Being fair, though, they were very clear in all the pre-show emails about not taking anything in. I think with tap water they are legally obliged to provide it as they are selling food.

      What got me really angry was the whole admission system. First, the signs at security that you put only phones and bags in the tray. Just slowed everything down as of course the metal detectors went off for everybody with keys and wallets of change etc. The security man even said to me that they keep asking for the signs to be changed and that, as a regular concert-goer I was right that I should have ignored the signs and done what I usually do and transfer everything metal into a Ziploc for checking as I wait in line.

      He let me through, which was nice. Only thought was that it wouldn’t pick up one of those large plastic knives you can buy online…

      Then, the ticketing itself was a JOKE. Got to the rope, holding my confirmation, credit card and photo ID as I don’t have a smartphone. The woman just told me to go through and walk to a desk inside!!!! They weren’t interested in my ID or confirmation, but swiped my credit card and produced a ticket slip like at “Hamilton.” Now, did I mention that also like at “Hamilton,” they use a “dumb terminal” and the card I used was the one I booked with BUT I had cancelled it months ago.

      Of course, as nobody read the papers I had with me, and I wasn’t watched as I went to the desk, I could have just got lost in the crowd and hung about before finding any old empty seat. I’ll remember that in future…

      Much worse, I could have been carrying a plastic combat knife undetected and run amock – and the ticketing system would have no trace of me, would it…

      • Francesca Collis permalink
        June 13, 2019 10:26 am

        You’re not going to believe this but we were in Block 111 too!!!!! Row S. What a small world.

      • Steve Rich permalink*
        June 13, 2019 10:39 am

        No way!!!! I was in row E. Another bit of weirdness – I went in via the door with the big 111 sign. Turns out I should have used the other, un-marked, door as my seat was just off that aisle. Lucky I was early and found a row I could cut across. More under-trained staff, alas. Still, at least we were level with that extended stage, which was nice.

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