When the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed its doors this past May, it marked the end of a form of live entertainment made popular by master 19th century showman P.T. Barnum. Were the ringmaster behind the circus boom to be reborn in the 21st century, though, he probably wouldn’t be fooling around with lions and tigers and bears. At least, that’s the opinion of Hugh Jackman, who plays Barnum in the new movie musical The Greatest Showman and received a Golden Globe nomination for his spirited song-and-dance routine. “If Barnum were around today, I don’t think he’d be pitching a tent somewhere,” the actor tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I think he’d be in Silicon Valley and into virtual reality. He has a way now through the internet to connect to everyone on the planet; I don’t think he’d be in theater.”
To Jackman’s mind, what made Barnum the world’s greatest showman was the way he innately understood show business. And the film follows his lead, using history as the jumping off point for a lavish, tuneful spectacle that hews to the legend, rather than the facts. In that way, The Greatest Showman is the kind of movie Barnum would likely have made about his own story had he lived to witness the birth of cinema. (The entrepreneur died in 1891, four years before the first movie theaters opened.) This film, says Jackman’s co-star Zendaya, who plays an aerialist in Barnum’s circus, “is supposed to transport us into this fantastical world where a moon can sit on a rooftop. That’s the beauty of a musical — that creativity to just go wherever your mind takes you.”
The Greatest Showman opens in theaters today.
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