When The Greatest Showman hits cinemas December 20, theatre fans will be thrilled the cast of the original movie musical boasts legitimate stage stars. Tony winner Hugh Jackman, who plays the title role of P.T. Barnum, earned his first statue in 2004 for his performance in The Boy From Oz and a Special Tony Award in 2012. He’s also hosted the awards show several times. Tony nominee Keala Settle is a homegrown Broadway talent, having made her Broadway debut in Priscilla Queen of the Desert and following that up with Hands on a Hardbody, which earned her Drama Desk and Tony nominations and a Theatre World Award. Since then, she’s played Madame Thénardier in the 2014 revival of Les Misérables and originated the role of Becky in Waitress. As the Bearded Lady in Greatest Showman, Settle’s skills are on display. Even Michelle Williams, who plays Barnum’s wife Charity, led the most recent revival of Cabaret as Sally Bowles, and Austyn Johnson who plays young Caroline Barnum was a replacement for Amanda Thripp in Broadway’s Matilda The Musical.
But not-so-hidden in the background are other Broadway faces theatre fans will be excited to see. Here are six performers to look out for when you go see The Greatest Showman:
A Tony nominee for his portrayal of Berger in 2009’s Hair, Swenson is one of the first characters audiences meet in Greatest Showman. When the film begins, P.T. Barnum is a young boy with “A Million Dreams.” Swenson plays Barnum’s father, a poor tailor. Barnum’s tattered beginnings serve as fuel for his constant chase of success and greatness; his father is also the reason Barnum meets the love of his life in the film; while the tailor waits on an aristocratic gentleman, Barnum flirts with his daughter. Swenson currently stars as Earl in Broadway’s Waitress, though he and Settle were not in the show at the same time; they did share the stage in Les Misérables and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, where Swenson played Javert and Tick, respectively.
Another father figure, Jennings plays Mr. Carlyle, the patriarch of Zac Efron’s character’s elite New York family. Jennings played a similar old-school character, Mr. Maraczek, in the 2016 revival of She Loves Me, starring Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski, and Gavin Creel. Next, he’ll be seen in the Broadway cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Broadway fans will spot that familiar bushy mustache a mile away. Anderson plays Mr. O’Malley in Greatest Showman, a thief-turned-box-office-manager for Barnum’s museum-circus. As always, Anderson provides some well-timed comic relief. The actor originated the role of Cal in Broadway’s Waitress, where he and Settle played unlikely lovers. He made his Broadway debut in South Pacific and played in the ensemble of Kinky Boots before originating the starring role in Soul Doctor. His other Main Stem credits include Rocky and The Last Ship, and he will be seen as Mr. Thompson in the Broadway-bound Pretty Woman: The Musical.
Barra made his Broadway debut last year as JoJo the Whale in A Bronx Tale The Musical, where he continues to hit the stage eight times a week. His film role may be a small one, but Barra plays the stagehand who assists opera singer Jenny Lind during her sold-out concert engagement, produced by Barnum. You’ll notice him in the background of the scene featuring her song, “Never Enough,” as Barnum stands stunned by the heights of Lind’s talent.
The actor’s resume boasts credits of playing lovable and endearing characters such as Oscar in The New Group’s Sweet Charity starring Sutton Foster, The Monster in Broadway’s Young Frankenstein, Pozzo in Waiting for Godot, and more. But in Greatest Showman, Hensley takes on a venomous role as one of the townspeople who believes the circus is a bunch of freaks and should be sent packing. Still, he brings his A-game as the leader of the pack, so keep an eye out.
Fans of Newsies and So You Think You Can Dance will recognize Wong’s moves as part of the ensemble of circus performers in Greatest Showman. Though he hasn’t been back on Broadway since Newsies, Wong slides right back into musical theatre storytelling as part of this cinematic story.