A blanket of joy over 15.000 people

Last night my friend, my sister, her girlfriend and I went to Amsterdam to see Hugh Jackman on stage in his show The Man, The Music, The Show.

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I knew what to expect from YouTube films I had seen from some years ago of Hugh doing such a show in Australia but what I wasn’t quite prepared for was the blanket of love and joy that one man was able to spread out over an audience of 15.000 people. It helps if you like the musical numbers he performs but I imagine that even if you don’t like the music, the joy just emanates anyway and is irresistible. Hugh Jackman really loves doing this.

The show opened with images of iconic Hugh Jackman film moments set to the opening beat of the song The Greatest Show, followed by a full on energetic performance of that song and the following song Come Alive by Hugh and his crew. I tried to take pictures with my phone but the quality isn’t great (some of these are snapshots from videos I took that aren’t great quality either, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them).

He proceeded to welcome the audience, telling us in one Dutch sentence that he couldn’t speak Dutch. He tried to pronounce Dutch town names in song, very quickly, which cemented the connection to his audience. He looked at an audience member and commiserated with him being there as there would be no Wolverine in this (“it’ll be a long 2 hours for you”). He was present, knows where he’s at, acknowledges what’s happening around him and engages the audience with humour. He then started to tell stories of his youth and the beginning of his careeer. He sang the Gaston song from Beauty and the Beast, which had been his first musical role. The joy with which he performs this is just infectious.

Someone filmed it and put it on YouTube…

He spoke so lovingly about his wife Deb and his kids, it was heartwarming and there were ‘aw’s coming from the audience. He sang a song that that had been sung at their wedding (The Way You Look Tonight). In the pictures I took Hugh is mostly a blob of light but luckily that was not how we actually saw him when he performed. It’s just tough getting good pictures with all the effects lighting, but it does give you a sense of the atmosphere.

Pictures taken off the screen were better…

Before the intermission there was a Les Miserables section with a medley of Valjean’s Soliloquy / I Dreamed a Dream / One Day More. Especially in the soliloquy Hugh showed that he was not just singing a song, he was also acting the role and became Jean Valjean for a little bit, which made the performance extra powerful. The man was giving everything.

After the intermission he became Peter Allen, The Boy From Oz, a role that had earned him a Tony Award.

That was a really fun segment where he went into the audience and picked up a guy to dance with him on stage. The guy’s girlfriend was asked up as well, Hugh couldn’t pronounce her name ‘Maartje’ but he did kiss her “94” times on her cheeks as that is how Dutch people greet each other (“when you meet someone in Holland it’s like you’re married!”). Hugh referenced one of the moments during this segment on Twitter last night:

The segment ended with a spectacular show with among others the song I Go To Rio

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He then sat down to sing the Peter Allen ballad Tenterfield Saddler beautifully…

… and that was followed by an absolutely captivating performance of A Million Dreams (another song from The Greatest Showman). A dancer performed the song in sign language and dance, Hugh joined in beautifully and at the end (not filmed anywhere that I could see) Hugh received a standing ovation. I couldn’t film the standing ovation myself because I was clapping my heart out but I did film the performance (and film doesn’t quite do it justice, it felt more special live).

Hugh received his standing ovation after the song graciously, he looked a little emotional during it, you could see him savouring the moment. (MTA that I have now indeed found a clip of Hugh receiving his standing ovation and being somewhat emotional HERE).

There then came a Broadway segment (with Singin’ in the Rain for instance)…

… and a beautiful sequence with an Aboriginal group of singers that ended in a lovely rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

There was a tap dance and drums sequence and at the end of that Hugh did do a Wolverine growl, to the delight of the crowd. I didn’t get a good shot, this is the best I have, where he used his drumming sticks for the claws. The body language totally says Wolverine!

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He did From Now On, my fave song from The Greatest Showman, and everyone was up on their feet for that.

The final song was a Peter Allen song called Once Before I Go. This last song became a little special as it contained a brief second or two of my ‘personal’ Hugh-encounter! By this time the audience (including my friend and I) had been swaying along to several songs with the phone lights on, this song was no exception. I heard later that my sister and her girlfriend, who were sitting elsewhere, had joined in with the lights as well.

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Anyway, my friend and I said to each other that when Hugh turned our way again, we’d stop the soft rhythmic swaying of our phones and we’d just wave our lights madly at him to say ‘hi’. We did just that and, lo and behold, he registered us and he waved right back at us! I found a video of this exact moment on YouTube, filmed by someone who must have been sitting not too far off from where we were sitting. At 1:28 – 1:30 minutes into the video you can see Hugh registering something, he gives a little smirk and then he waves right at us, in the same rhythm as we are waving our phone lights at him.

There was no way he could have really seen us, but he had seen our lights and he had answered our greeting with a greeting of his own. That’s awesome, right? Yeah, had to screen cap that… this is Hugh saying hello to my friend and me!

The only down side to this concert was that after this song, Hugh was immediately gone, the big lights went up and it was all over. But what a glorious evening we had had!

So, yeah, I did have to buy a tour book as a keepsake. The merch prices are always a little steep, but I just couldn’t resist it…

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If there is one thing to admire about Hugh Jackman it is that he knows how to live in the moment. He is very present and focused, reacts to what happens around him, he is joyful and exudes pleasure in what he does. He has a huge heart that he is able to openly share with thousands of people at a time and because of that everyone opens their hearts to him in return. He has done and will be doing this show many, many times with the same stories and jokes and songs and yet it feels fresh and new, as if he is performing it the first time in full just for you. It is amazing that you are in a stadium with 15.000 other people and yet somehow the man seems to be speaking to you. He can spread love and joy and make you feel special and that makes Hugh Jackman a special kind of man.


MTA – I have now also compiled a playlist of the evening: