Plays: Jackman's 'Oz' Fest

Hugh Jackman may not quite be in the first rank of macho heartthrobs, but he's pretty darned close. He turned heads as the hunk in "Swordfish" and a whole lot more as Wolverine in the "X-Men" movies. But one hit away from movie stardom, Jackman has confounded expectations by taking a leading role in a Broadway musical.

What's surprising, and conceivably risky, about Jackman's Broadway debut in "The Boy From Oz" is that he's playing the undisguisedly gay disco-era darling Peter Allen, the Australian singer-songwriter ("I Go to Rio," "Don't Cry Out Loud") who was discovered by Judy Garland and then later wed to her daughter Liza Minnelli before dying of AIDS in 1992. Jackman slips inside the Hawaiian-shirted, booty-shaking skin of his fellow Aussie with carefree flair and high-voltage charm. Jackman's a better dancer than Allen, and he can belt his songs out of the park. His exuberant performance is a gallant gesture to his countryman, whose outback-to-riches saga (somewhat cleaned up in the play) made him an Australian legend. Judging from the audience response to Jackman--when he takes off his shirt in Act II, he's greeted with applause, whistles and a lascivious purring sound rare to Broadway--an even bigger Oz legend is in the making.