A major studio has not produced an original live-action movie musical since 1992’s Newsies, starring little kid Christian Bale. I am talking wholly original, here. Moulin Rouge! in 2001 counts in that it was original story, but it only featured one and a half original songs. Therefore, it does not fit the criteria. Well, Fox is taking a chance on The Greatest Showman on Earth centered on P.T. Barnum, legendary co-creator of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Hugh Jackman, who is now getting pretty good reviews on Broadway in Jez Butterworth’s The River (though, the play itself is being met with a bit harsher criticism), is set to play Barnum in the film, which plans to start production in New York next summer. Bill Condon penned the latest draft of the screenplay. Michael Gracey, a former animator who has lined up a few projects to direct but has not started them yet, will take on the directorial duties. Songs for the film were written by Justin Paul and Benz Pasek (A Christmas Story: The Musical), Bonnie McKee, Brian Lapin, and Jake Shears.
I am very happy a studio is taking a chance on an original musical. I do find it odd that this is the story they are choosing to do that with. This is not because the Barnum story is not interesting. It is because there is already a musical about Barnum called, well, Barnum. I am a fan of that show with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Michael Stewart, and book by Mark Bramble. I would not claim it is a great piece of musical theater, but it is quite a bit of fun. I love throwing on the original cast recording featuring Jim Dale (who won a Tony for his performance as Barnum) and Glenn Close.
I do find it a little worrisome they have brought on so many different writers and composers onto this, as a musical score should be unified. So, I hope they are all fairly good mimics of one another. Despite that worry, I hope this film turns out to be terrific and urges other studios to take on original musicals. That is something we hardly get and is an area I am very interested in (both as a viewer and as someone who wants to make films).
Original report from Deadline.