Hugh Sheridan, performer, HUGHMAN and Hugh Sheridan Live at Brisbane Festival

I sing songs and tell stories from my childhood memories, heartache and pain, and of course all the fun, laughter and love that fills me up today ...

Audiences across the nation will recognise Hugh Sheridan. After charming the pants off us all as Ben Rafter on hit TV show Packed to the Rafters, the multi-hyphenate performer has blossomed into a bona fide artistic superstar. This month Hugh Sheridan will be showing off all aspects of their artistic repertoire with not one, but two must-see shows at this year’s Brisbane Festival. You can catch Hugh performing jazz tunes and telling tales in Hugh Sheridan Live on Friday September 3, then have your spirits lifted at HUGHMAN – a sensory spectacular taking over South Bank’s piazza on September 17–18. We had a chat to Hugh about their love of performance, taste in tunes and even how it feels to step back into the role of Ben Rafter for the forthcoming Back to the Rafters sequel series.

We’d love to start right at the beginning of your love of performance – can you recall the moment when you sensed an inkling of affection for performing arts?
I don’t 100 percent recall the exact time because I grew up with my Dad being a big jazz singer in Adelaide, but have been told I used try take the mic at his shows from the age of two and then started acting classes at five. Since then I have done everything I can within the performing arts.

It’s safe to say that you’re a bona fide triple threat, with some serious acting, musical and dance chops. How have you managed to strike a balance between these three creative expressions and what unique itch does each medium scratch for you?
I grew up watching musicals and seeing the greats like Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelley and Fred Astaire who could do it all – that was my dream. My acting and singing came naturally, so at age 14 I worked and worked and worked to get into Australian Ballet School to enhance my dream of being a triple-threat performer. When I finished that I worked as an actor. I love and trained very hard in each medium equally!

You’re pulling double duty at this year’s Brisbane Festival, with two Hugh-centric shows on the 2021 program. You’ll first be treating audiences to a set of jazz and swing tunes, as well as some stories from your life and career, for Hugh Sheridan Live on Friday September 3 – can you shed any insight into how music has shaped and played a pivotal role in your life?
Music is my life. Every song in the show has a story and link to my life. I sing songs and tell stories from my childhood memories, heartache and pain, and of course all the fun, laughter and love that fills me up today.

Things will be taking a high-voltage turn for your second show, HUGHMAN, taking place on September 17–18. We hear that this show is a sensory overload – music, lights, dance, and uplifting affirmations – can you tell us a bit about the show and what inspired it?
HUGHMAN is a celebration of love with no labels. I was inspired by my deep love for dance and music. I have gathered a team of Australia’s most sought-after dancers and together we are ready to raise the collective vibration of everyone in the audience through, music, dance, and visual ecstasy.

You’ll be spinning high-energy hits from the likes of Whitney Houston, George Michael, Michael Jackson, and Olivia Newton-John in the show. Be honest, how hard is it whittling down the setlist for this show and are there any songs that you’re keen to include in other renditions of HUGHMAN in the future?
I sing and spin beats from MJ to Calvin Harris, Guetta to Sinatra and it’s amazing! It’s my favourite soundtrack, so the HUGHMAN set list wasn’t too hard to create. We do have a few exciting new surprises for Brisbane, which you’ll have to come and witness for yourself.

While it sounds like HUGHMAN is all about cutting loose and letting one’s hair down, there’s also a sense of togetherness and joyousness the show encourages via music and dance. What power do you think these outlets hold in how they can unite and inspire, particularly in testing times such as these?
It’s so important for people to come together, sing and dance. I get so much joy seeing people happy and having a good time when I’m performing and doing what I was born to do. We are living in a time that none of this is allowed, naturally, so to be able to create HUGHMAN and bring joy to people through music, dance song and love is a dream come true!

We also hear that you recently finished filming episodes of Back to the Rafters – the sequel series to the beloved Packed to the Rafters. We won’t pester you for plot spoilers, but can you describe what it has been like stepping back into the role of Ben Rafter after such a gap between seasons?
There is so much of myself in Ben and so much of Ben is me. The character was created before me but over the years the writers and I brought Ben to life. I have so much love for Ben – he is my best friend. I’m very excited to be back on Rafters. It holds a very special piece of my heart. NO spoilers here, you’ve got to wait! If you’re hanging with excitement, catch up on the full Packed To The Rafters series now available on Amazon Prime.

You can catch Hugh Sheridan twice during Brisbane Festival – Hugh Sheridan Live will take place at the South Bank Piazza on Friday September 3, before the star returns to the piazza for HUGHMAN from September 17–18.


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