“We were there because Steven Levenson, the playwright, was living in L.A. and working on a TV show at the time,” says Paul.
“Michael Greif came out at the time,” adds Pasek. “It was Camp Dear Evan Hansen.”
“But we took a couple days to work on something else,” Paul continues. That “something else” turns out to be The Greatest Showman, the upcoming original movie musical about P.T. Barnum and his founding of “The Greatest Show on Earth.” But it’s also the story about the triumph of imagination, the determination it takes to be who you truly are, and the realities of love.
It may seem now that Pasek and Paul were destined to write this new musical—one specifically written for the screen. After all, the writing duo won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for their work on last year’s La La Land. But back when they submitted songs to Greatest Showman director Michael Gracey, Dear Evan Hansen and La La Land were tiny dots on the horizon. Few knew of Pasek and Paul—especially in Hollywood.
But their musical treatment of the sequence at the start of the movie, when Barnum goes from a boy of dreams to a grown man with a childlike imagination, convinced Gracey that they were the team for the job. That initial “audition” sample is now known as the swirling melody “A Million Dreams.” And the movie has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy, as well as earning nominations for Best Original Song for Pasek & Paul and Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for Hugh Jackman.
As flowing as their contemporary pop score sounds, Pasek says that the songs were definitely a challenge. “I don’t know that any songs come pouring out of us,” says Pasek. But Paul says the fastest song to write was “From Now On,” sung by Jackman, whose charisma and talent lifts the film to a next level.
“We were channeling [Jackman] as we were writing the song,” says Paul. “That happened faster. That moment of having him come back to his family—”
“It requires a bit more storytelling,” Pasek interjects.
“And that’s where we like to live the most,” says Paul.
Indeed, unlike their La La Land, which often featured more surrealist fantasy sequences, The Greatest Showman uses Pasek & Paul’s music and lyrics as traditional musical theatre storytelling, where the music drives plot forward and digs deep into characters and their relationships. Watch the full interview above for their complete take on the challenges and triumphs of writing The Greatest Showman.
The Greatest Showman hits cinemas nationwide December 20, starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Keala Settle, Michelle Williams, and Rebecca Ferguson.