Is 'The Greatest Showman' A Broadway Musical? The Movie Takes Cues From Both Stage & Screen
There are two kinds of movie musicals: those based on Broadway productions and those written exclusively for the big screen. The Greatest Showman is the latter, complete with a brand new original score and book of songs written by La La Land scribes Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. But while The Greatest Showman isn't a Broadway musical, it definitely could be.
In The Greatest Showman, the story of P.T. Barnum and the inception of "The Greatest Show on Earth" (aka the circus) is turned into a larger than life musical, complete with intricate dance numbers and songs belted to perfection. It definitely looks like it could have originated on Broadway, following in the footsteps of other movie musicals like Les Misérables or West Side Story. in truth The Greatest Showman is an original musical written specifically for the screen, but the film does have major Broadway talent behind it, not the least of which is star and musical theater stud Hugh Jackman.
In addition to Jackman, an experienced performer of both movie musicals and live stage productions, director Michael Gracey enlisted Tony nominee Keala Settle, as well as two Broadway songwriters to pen the film's original songs, Paul and Pasek. While fans today will recognize Paul and Pasek as Oscar winners for their work on La La Land and Tony winners for Dear Evan Hansen, the duo actually began working on The Greatest Showman before those two projects.
"At the time, we had never written anything for film," Pasek said in The Greatest Showman "The Art of the Musical" featurette. "This was like, the big chance for us." Pasek and Paul worked closely with the director to set the right tone for the music, which ended up landing somewhere between pop and Broadway. "The director wanted the music to have more of the spirit of pop songs and contemporary music while still being traditional in a musical theater storytelling sense," said Paul speaking with The Hollywood Reporter.
Gracey explained his decision to pair contemporary music with a period musical as inspired by Barnum himself. "He saw the world differently. It felt right, in a film that was more about imagination than historical accuracy, to use contemporary music and contemporary dance," Gracey said in an interview with Variety. It was this idea that Gracey pitched to Pasek and Paul when they first met. "We thought that was really bizarre and intriguing, and that was one of the reasons that we really perked up," Paul told Deadline.
The music may have been specifically written for the screen, but that doesn't mean fans won't one day be seeing The Greatest Showman come to life on the stage. Movies have been known to turn into stage musicals (and vice versa). Should the movie become a box office hit, it's not hard to believe an adaptation won't at least be attempted. That said, it's not a done deal, and for now, fans might want to content themselves with the few live Greatest Showman performances they can get courtesy of YouTube, like the live "Come Alive" commercial the cast performed fro the film during A Christmas Story Live!
Fans of The Greatest Showman might also get to see the cast perform "This Is Me" at the 2018 Academy Awards. The song was just nominated for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes and, should Oscar also come calling, the cast might be asked to perform on the Academy stage, as is tradition for Best Original Song. Jackman, of course, has performed at the Oscars multiple times — he even hosted it once, complete with a musical opening monologue — so a live Greatest Showman performance is not out of the question.
Needless to say, awards are never guaranteed, and neither are nominations, so fans of the musical banking on seeing it performed IRL might want to scale back their expectations. But, look on the bright side: The Greatest Showman might not be a Broadway musical, but in a few short months, fans will be able to watch it "live" in their living rooms. And that's something.