20th Century Fox has released the first The Greatest Showman images. The original musical is based on the life of P.T. Barnum and follows him from his poverty-stricken childhood to the launch of his first circus in New York. Hugh Jackman stars as Barnum alongside Zac Efron, who plays Barnum’s business partner. That character in turn falls in love with a trapeze artist played by Zendaya. Michelle Williams co-stars as Barnum’s wife Charity.
The movie was originally a traditional biopic but changed into a musical following a suggestion from director Michael Gracey. “I said, ‘If you’re going to call it The Greatest Showman, you should play to your strengths and we should make it a musical,’” the director tells EW. “That ridiculous remark cost me seven years of my life.”
Those songs will be handled by La La Land’s Oscar-winning duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and they’ll be made to sound like current pop hits. “We were clear from the beginning that this wouldn’t feel like a period movie or a historical piece,” Jackman says. “What would Barnum do now? I have an almost-12-year-old daughter. I wanted [the movie] to be as exciting for her as listening to Katy Perry’s new song.” While that ahistorical take may be a bit grating to some, I think it could work if the music is good. Also, how grumpy do you have to be to argue, “Well this doesn’t sound like music from the mid-1800s at all, and I know my mid-1800s music!”
Hopefully we’ll be getting a trailer for this soon, and it should be interesting to see how Jackman tackles this musical. While he’s an outstanding performer, I think Les Miserables gave him a little too much room to maneuver and he tended to lapse into sing-speaking. Then again, Les Miserables had a host of problems, so hopefully The Greatest Showman does Jackman’s talents justice.
The Greatest Showman opens December 25th.