Hugh Jackman Pays Tribute to Broadway Titan

Hugh Jackman Pays Tribute to Broadway Titan
Hugh Jackman
Roger Karnbad/Celebrity Photo

02/09/2009 AT 03:45 PM EST

Less than two weeks before he'll host the Feb. 22 Oscars, PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive, Hugh Jackman, on Monday emceed and performed at a loving, all-star tribute to the man Angela Lansbury, at the ceremony, said "represented the very, very best of Broadway" – Shubert Organization chairman Gerald Schoenfeld, who died last November at 84.

"Hey, you!" Jackman said was how Schoenfeld would always address him. Telling the handsome star that he'd already made enough money "with the claws" as the movies' Wolverine, Schoenfeld would then prod Jackman by saying, "It's time you came back to the theater."

Shubert shows overseen by Schoenfeld included such landmarks as A Chorus Line, Mama Mia!, Cats, Les Miserables, Equus and The Phantom of the Opera which, after 21 years, is still playing at the Majestic Theater, which was packed for Monday's Schoenfeld tribute.

During the two-hour memorial, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber introduced Betty Buckley, who sang "Memory," which she introduced Broadway's Cats in 1982.

Like a Proud Parent

Among others, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Whoopi Goldberg, Oscar winners Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons also recalled Schoenfeld's powerful personality.

"I believed if I had said I didn't like the audience, Jerry would have changed it for me," said Irons.

Besides wanting to woo Jackman back to the theater, Schoenfeld would also stand in the wings several nights a week when the leading man was on Broadway in 2003, in the musical The Boy from Oz.

Recalling how Schoenfeld would watch the show and beam like a proud parent, Jackman said the chairman particularly liked the final musical number, "Once Before I Go."

Wolverine came back to the theater on Monday afternoon – and sang it once last time for Schoenfeld.
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