Why The Greatest Showman Works So Well As A Musical, According To The Song Writers

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

The last of 2017's movies are trickling in, and for those of you who want to end your year with some song and dance in the theater, you'll have that option in a few weeks thanks to The Greatest Showman. After languishing in development hell for years, the Hugh Jackman-led musical will tell the tale of how P.T. Barnum founded his infamous circus. As for why The Greatest Showman was turned into a musical rather than a straightforward biopic, Benj Pasek, one-half of the movie's songwriting duo, noted that to capture Barnum and his world in the most entertaining way possible required more than just having the characters speak normally throughout the whole movie. In Pasek's words:

It's a story that exists in this fantastical, larger-than-life world. P.T. Barnum was a man who was not defined by the world that he lived in; he was really a dreamer and wanted the world to exist not as it is but what it could be. When a character is so inspired that they can't just speak their emotions, the world provides a justification for why singing can exist --- to express these outsized emotions.

Benj Pasek's songwriting partner, Justin Paul, added during their interview with THR that's focused on an entertainer "naturally lends itself to a bit of spectacle." They do have a point. While a traditional biopic about P.T. Barnum could have been informative and perhaps even captivating, having him and the other characters belting out lyrics adds extra spark and pizazz to the proceedings. Looking at Pasek and Paul's past work, as well as what's been teased so far in The Greatest Showman's trailers, audiences are no doubt in for a treat with this period piece extravaganza's songs, which include "Rewrite the Stars" and This is Me." After all, this is the same duo that wrote La La Land's tunes, one of which, "City of Stars," walked away with both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award, among the movie's other numerous accolades.

Along with Hugh Jackman (whose past musical experience includes Oklahoma! and Les Miserables) playing P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman's main cast includes Zac Efron as Phillip Carlyle, Michelle Williams as Charity Barnum, Rebecca Ferguson as Jenny Lind, Zendaya as Anne Wheeler, Keala Settle as Lettie Lutz and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as W.D. Wheeler. The movie has been in some form of development since 2009, but when director Michael Gracey came aboard, it slowly started to move from concept to reality.

The Greatest Showman opens in theaters on December 20, and don't forget to check out our 2017 premiere guide and 2018 premiere guide to see what movies are coming over the next year that catch your fancy.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.