Come December 20, Tony winner and Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman returns to the big screen in another musical—but you’ve never heard him like this before.
He may be The Boy From Oz and his Academy Award nod came from his work in Les Misérables, but as P.T. Barnum in the brand new movie musical The Greatest Showman, Jackman needed to find a new gear.
“I wanted to do a different style from the way I’d been singing before, the way I’d learn to sing. This is a little more pop,” says Jackman during an interview with Playbill at the press junket for The Greatest Showman. “For me I really had to go back to the beginning.”
Jackman worked with vocal coach Liz Caplan, who worked with Tony winners Ben Platt and Neil Patrick Harris—and a litany of other star performers. With her help, Jackman (who already eaerned a Golden Globe nomination for the role) says, “I have never loved singing more.
“I find it really difficult to listen to myself sing,” he confides. “I’ll be listening to the Broadway channel sometimes and they’ll announce me and I immediately turn it off. But with this I can actually listen to myself.”
And with songs by Tony and Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land), Jackman had material ripe for the picking. Set in the 1800s, the film combines the story, costumes, and conventions of the time period and the founding of Barnum’s Circus with contemporary music and dance. Through the story of Barnum’s striving to make something of himself and create a world of vibrancy and joy for his darling wife, Jackman’s passion and talent shines through.
“I came to singing late. When I was doing Beauty and the Beast and in my contract they made me have a singing lesson every week,” he explains of his early stage career. “What happened was I was learning on the job … and I kind of developed a voice that was not fully mine. Liz really made me fall in love with singing.
Jackman also discussed what it was like to sing this score in a recording studio, as opposed to his Jean Valjean, where he sang live in Tom Hooper’s film adaptation of the Alain Boublil and Claude Michel-Schönberg classic.
The Greatest Showman debuts in theatres nationwide December 20.