Ever since Benj Pasek and Justin Paul won Golden Globes and then Oscars for their lyrics in La La Land’s “City of Stars”—and then won the Tony for Best Score for Dear Evan Hansen—audiences have been excited to experience their original score for the upcoming movie musical The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman. Now that 20th Century Fox has dropped the poster for the Christmas Day release, buzz should continue to snowball steadily through the fall and winter for the film about P.T. Barnum, the founder of “The Greatest Show On Earth.”
But the composer-lyricists and their leading man aren’t the only people with major theatre credits in this movie musical. Playbill pages through the theatre cred of the cast and creative team (to date) of The Greatest Showman to prove they’ve got the talent it takes to carry the musical production:
Hugh Jackman, P.T. Barnum
To Marvel fans, he’s Wolverine, but to Broadway fans he will always be The Boy From Oz. Jackman made his Broadway debut starring in the title role in the 2003 production about Peter Allen, the late Australian entertainer and one of Liza Minnelli’s ex-husbands. He won a Theatre World Award, Drama Desk Award, and Tony Award for the defining performance. Jackman received a special Tony Award in 2012 and hosted the Tonys four times. Having performed in musicals since grammar school—starring in an amateur production of My Fair Lady—and succumbing to the theatre bug in his last year at University of Technology, Sydney, the Australian-born Jackman decided to pursue acting full time and studied at the Actors’ Centre in Sydney. He would go on to star in the Australian production of Sunset Boulevard and the London revival of Oklahoma! He starred in Broadway’s A Steady Rain opposite Daniel Craig in 2009 before his special engagement Broadway concert in 2001, Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway. In 2014, he played in The River alongside Cush Jumbo and Laura Donnelly. Of course, even the Marvel fans caught wind of Jackman’s singing talents when he starred as Jean Valjean in the feature film adaptation of Les Misérables, in which Jackman and the cast famously sang live to record the epic score by Schönberg and Boublil. Here again as the leading man, Jackman will be able to flaunt his vocal prowess on the big screen.
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, composer-lyricists
Pasek and Paul team up with John Debney (music for the live-action Jungle Book) for the music of The Greatest Showman. Graduates of the musical theatre program at the Universty of Michigan, the pair won the American Theatre Wing’s Jonathan Larson Award in 2007, which honors achievements by up-and-coming composers, lyricists, and librettists. Their song cycle, Edges, premiered in Michigan in 2005 and had over 200 productions worldwide. The two made their Broadway debut with the score to the musical stage adaptation of A Christmas Story, for which Pasek wrote the music and Paul wrote the Lyrics. A live production of the musical starring Maya Rudolph will air on Fox later this year. Pasek earned a Drama Desk nod for his music, and the pair earned a Tony nomination for their score in 2013. The two also wrote the score for Dogfight, which won the Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theatre and two 2013 Lucille Lortel Awards. Pasek and Paul wrote the score to the musical adaptation of James and the Giant Peach as well as songs for NBC’s Smash, Disney’s Johnny and the Sprites, and the musical crossover episode of The Flash and Supergirl. But the biggest stage hit the pair has enjoyed to date is Dear Evan Hansen, which took home a 2016 Drama Desk Award for its production at Second Stage and six 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, for the Broadway production. In addition to Greatest Showman, songs by Pasek and Paul will appear in the live-action remake of Disney’s Aladdin and of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Rebecca Ferguson, Jenny Lind
One of The Greatest Showman’s leading ladies, Ferguson is not a Broadway baby, but boasts musical and dance talents. The Swedish-born actor graduated from Adolf Fredrik’s Music School in Stockholm and has danced ballet, tap, jazz, funk, and Argentine tango from a young age.
Michelle Williams, Charity
Williams plays Barnum’s wife, Charity, in this movie musical. An acclaimed screen actor and four-time Oscar nominee, Williams has played Broadway twice: one in a musical and once in a straight drama. She opened the most recent revival of Roundabout Theatre Company’s Cabaret as freewheeling nightclub singer Sally Bowles and returned in 2016 for the emotionally exhausting two-hander Blackbird opposite Jeff Daniels. Whether stage or screen, Williams has proven she has the chops to make an impact through performance.
Zac Efron, Phillip
The 29-year-old actor broke out in Disney’s High School Musical as Troy Bolton, the jock who found a second calling in the drama club’s musi-CAL. The Disney Channel Original Movie was such a hit, it spawned a trilogy, and fans got to enjoy Efron’s vocal stylings for two more movies. The actor then played heartthrob Link Larkin in the 2007 Hairspray movie musical. Since then, Efron has pushed his career in the direction of screen comedies (Neighbors, Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates), and he has yet to make it to Broadway. Perhaps his performance in this musical will spur him to the New York stage.
Though she also ranks on the list of talents who have not yet appeared on the Main Stem, Zendaya has theatre connections. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Zendaya appeared as Little Ti Moune in a Berkeley Playhouse production of Once on This Island and as Joe in Caroline, or Change at Palo Alto’s TheaterWorks. Having come up through work on the Disney Channel, Zendaya is now a recording artist and actor in her own right. Her version of “Neverland” appeared on the concept album of Finding Neverland The Album, and she appeared alongside Tony winner Bryan Cranston (All the Way) in the music video.
Keala Settle, The Bearded Woman
A Broadway favorite ever since her breakout in Hands on a Hardbody, Settle has begun to break through in Hollywood with appearances in The Big C and Ricki and the Flash, starring Meryl Streep. Theatre fans may also know her as Madame Thénardier in the most recent revival of Les Misérables or as the original no-nonsense Becky to Jessie Mueller’s Jenna in Waitress. Last year, Settle lent her voice to the hit recording of “What the World Needs Now” as part of Broadway for Orlando and has been active in Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley’s Concerts for America series. Greatest Showman’s Bearded Woman marks Settle’s first major role, and she’s packed her powerhouse vocals for the ride.
Will Swenson, role not yet revealed
Just announced August 28, Swenson will return to the role of Earl in Broadway’s Waitress. A replacement in the role, the Tony nominee for Hair will be back in the pie-loving musical starting September 12. Swenson made his Broadway debut in the musical Brooklyn in 2005. He went on to the ensemble—and to understudy the title role—in Lestat before 110 in the Shade. As Berger in the Tony-winning revival of Hair, Swenson catapulted his career to the next level leading the companies of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and taking on Javert in the 2014 revival of Les Misérables. (Swenson recently surprised the guests of Playbill’s Broadway on the Rhine River and sang in a “Javert-off” with original Les Miz villain Terrence Mann.) He played a short engagement in Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick’s Disaster! during its Broadway run and added Waitress to his credits earlier this spring. Swenson’s role in Greatest Showman has not yet been revealed.
Paul Sparks, James Gordon Bennett
Best known as Thomas Yates on House of Cards, theatre fans will recognize Sparks from plays on Broadway and Off. Sparks made his Broadway debut in 2003’s Take Me Out and returned to the Main Stem in 2009 for Hedda Gabler opposite Mary-Louise Parker. Most recently, he played in Sam Shepard’s Buried Child Off-Broadway in 2016. The actor has earned a slew of Drama Desk nominations for his performances in Coyote on a Fence (2000), Blackbird (2004), Orange Flower Water (2005), Essential Self-Defense (2007), and Dusk Rings a Bell (2011). He should feel at home amongst the rest of the stage talent in this cast.
Bill Condon, screenwriter
Condon knows a thing or two about musicals. Having written the screenplay to the movie musical versions of Chicago and Dreamgirls—the latter which he also directed—he knows the key to a good book of a musical. Condon earned a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay for Chicago. In addition to Dreamgirls, Condon also directed the live-action remake of Disney’s movie musical Beauty and the Beast. His body of work demonstrates an understanding of the structure of musical theatre.