No es­cape from ‘The Great­est Show­man’

‘Reimag­ined’ en­lists ros­ter of celebrity fans

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ryan

Hugh Jack­man’s film was a punch­line that be­gat a best-sell­ing sound­track. Now it’s back and “Reimag­ined.”

There’s no es­cap­ing “The Great­est Show­man.”

Take it from the movie’s Os­car- and Tony-win­ning song­writ­ers Justin Paul and Benj Pasek (”La La Land,” “Dear Evan Hansen”), whose in­boxes are flooded daily with videos of peo­ple singing, danc­ing and work­ing out to its ag­gres­sively up­beat sound­track.

“We know a lot peo­ple who have done ‘Great­est Show­man’ rides at Soul­Cy­cle,” Paul says. “We also got a lot of mes­sages (in Au­gust) about this huge bar fight in Greece hap­pen­ing to ‘Never Enough,’ “a stir­ring bal­lad per­formed by former “The Voice” con­tes­tant Loren Allred for the film.

“Great­est Show­man” was the butt of Twit­ter jokes when it hit the­aters last De­cem­ber: roundly mocked for its anachro­nis­tic pop songs and largely fic­tion­al­ized ac­count of how P.T. Bar­num (Hugh Jack­man) cre­ated the Bar­num & Bai­ley Cir­cus in the late 1800s. But the glossy PG-rated movie mu­si­cal man­aged to over­come mid­dling reviews (55% pos­i­tive on Rot­ten Toma­toes) to be­come a sleeper box-of­fice smash, earn­ing more than $400 mil­lion world­wide.

Its orig­i­nal sound­track was a sim­i­lar slow-burn suc­cess in Jan­uary, reach­ing No. 1 on the Bill­board 200 al­bum chart in its fourth week of re­lease and dom­i­nat­ing Spo­tify’s U.S. vi­ral chart with ear­wormy sin­gles in­clud­ing “Never Enough” and “This Is Me,” its Os­car-nom­i­nated em­pow­er­ment an­them. Since then, the al­bum has sold more copies than any al­bum this year in the U.S. (1.3 mil­lion), ac­cord­ing to Nielsen Mu­sic, and shat­tered mul­ti­ple records across the pond, where it has matched the U.K. chart runs of Adele’s “21” and The Bea­tles’ “Sgt. Pep­per’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Now, the al­bum is get­ting a starstud­ded facelift with “The Great­est Show­man: Reimag­ined,” out Fri­day, which con­tains 13 cov­ers by main­stream acts in­clud­ing Ke­sha, Missy El­liott, Sara Bareilles, Zac Brown Band, Ty Dolla $ign and Panic! at the Disco.

Ini­tially, a deluxe edi­tion of the sound­track was planned for re­lease timed to Mother’s Day, fea­tur­ing two to three cov­ers by well-known singers as bonus tracks. But com­ing off the suc­cess of the celebrity-fil­lled “The Hamil­ton Mix­tape” in late 2016, At­lantic Records’ pres­i­dent Kevin Weaver saw more lu­cra­tive prospects in a full al­bum.

“Show­man” trails only Drake’s “Scor­pion” and Post Malone’s “Beer­bongs & Bent­leys” in terms of to­tal al­bum con­sump­tion (sales and streams) in 2018, so “my ex­pec­ta­tions are very high for this,” Weaver says. “With such a strong brand and amaz­ing new ren­di­tions of the songs, I an­tic­i­pate this will have a huge life of its own. I also ex­pect it con­tinue to be a feeder into the orig­i­nal cast al­bum, and for this to be a re­ally spe­cial re­lease around the hol­i­days” for fam­i­lies, in par­tic­u­lar.

The “Reimag­ined” A-list ros­ter was culled in part from so­cial me­dia, where pop su­per­stars Pink and Kelly Clark­son have ex­pressed their adoration for the film. At­lantic reached out to both women about con­tribut­ing and let them have their picks of songs.

Clark­son, who posted a teary video of her­self in bed watch­ing “Show­man” in March, chose to tackle “Never Enough” and (un­sur­pris­ingly) blew the roof off with her sig­na­ture belt.

“There are only a hand­ful of artists who can pull that off vo­cally and she’s among the best vo­cal­ists in pop mu­sic right now,” Pasek says. “That was re­ally, re­ally thrilling to get to hear her vo­cals on that song.”

Pink, mean­while, opted for hope­ful show­stop­per “A Mil­lion Dreams,” with one spe­cial re­quest: that her 7-year-old daugh­ter, Wil­low Sage Hart, could sing the reprise.

It was Wil­low’s first time record­ing in a stu­dio, “and it was over­whelm­ing watch­ing (Pink) teach her how to ad­just the lev­els and sing into the mi­cro­phone prop­erly,” Paul says. “It was like, ‘Wel­come to the world of Mama. This is what I do ev­ery day.’ She coached her through the en­tire thing and it meant the world to her.”

Be­fore­hand, “Pink said, ‘Look, I’d love for you guys to record my daugh­ter do­ing it and that’s enough. You don’t have to put it on the al­bum or any­thing,’ “Paul con­tin­ues. “And we were, ‘Are you kid­ding me? She sounds amaz­ing and this is such a spe­cial mo­ment. We have to let the world get to share in it.’ ”

Like many of the al­bum’s other of­ten­trea­cly cuts, “Mil­lion Dreams” brims with op­ti­mism and imag­ines the ways in which or­di­nary peo­ple can make a bet­ter, brighter world. It’s this pre­cise lack of cyn­i­cism that its au­thors be­lieve have made “Show­man’s” mu­sic such an un­likely phe­nom­e­non in di­vi­sive times.

“There was an ar­ti­cle in Va­ri­ety that talked about how ‘Great­est Show­man’ was un­cool in an ap­peal­ing way and I think that’s true,” Pasek says. “Ten years ago, ev­ery­thing was sort of ironic and snarky, and there are def­i­nitely peo­ple who will ap­proach this ma­te­rial (that way). But I think the rea­son that it’s res­onated is that it isn’t try­ing to be any­thing other than open-hearted, fun and up­lift­ing.”



P.T. Bar­num (Hugh Jack­man) cre­ates a fam­ily of cir­cus stars out of so­ci­ety’s out­casts in the mu­si­cal “The Great­est Show­man.”


Pink and her daugh­ter Wil­low Hart sing “A Mil­lion Dreams” on the new sound­track.


“Show­man” fan Kelly Clark­son belts “Never Enough” on the “Reimag­ined” sound­track.

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