The Greatest Showman | Biz Info


The Greatest Showman

P. T. Barnum and his father, Philo, a tailor, work for the Hallett family, and he becomes infatuated with their daughter Charity. Though Charity is being sent to finishing school, Barnum reassures her they will not be separated. The two keep in touch through letters until they meet again in adulthood (“A Million Dreams”), eventually marrying and raising two daughters in New York City (“A Million Dreams (Reprise)”). They live a humble life; though Charity is happy, Barnum dreams of more.

Barnum loses his job as a clerk at a shipping company after the company goes bankrupt. Taking a risky bet, he takes out a large loan from a bank, deceiving the bank into accepting his former employer’s lost ships as collateral. He uses this loan to buy Barnum’s American Museum in downtown Manhattan, an attraction showcasing various wax models. Initially, sales are slow; on the suggestion of his children to showcase something “alive”, he searches for “freaks” to serve as performers for his museum (“Come Alive”). This attracts a large audience, despite protests and poor reviews, prompting Barnum to rename his venture “Barnum’s Circus”.

Searching for ways to further his reputation amongst the upper class, he meets playwright Phillip Carlyle and convinces him to join his venture (“The Other Side”). Carlyle is enchanted with Anne Wheeler, an African-American trapeze artist, but he hides his feelings. During a trip Carlyle arranged for Barnum and his troupe to meet Queen Victoria, Barnum meets Jenny Lind, a famed Swedish singer, whom he convinces to perform in America, with him serving as her manager. Lind’s first American performance is a rousing success (“Never Enough”). While Barnum gains favor with the aristocratic patrons, he begins to distance himself from his original troupe, refusing to socialize with them. Dejected, they decide to stand against their local harassers (“This Is Me”).

Carlyle and Wheeler attend the theatre together one night, only to run into Carlyle’s parents, who insult Wheeler’s lowly status, causing her to leave. Carlyle chases her, trying to convince her that they can be together, but she rejects him despite her feelings towards him (“Rewrite the Stars”). As Barnum takes Lind on a U.S. tour, Charity feels isolated from her husband as she stays home with their children (“Tightrope”). While on tour, Lind begins falling in love with Barnum, but when he refuses her advances, she calls off the tour and kisses him at the end of her last show, which is photographed by the press (“Never Enough” reprise). Barnum returns home to find his circus on fire, caused by a fight between the protesters and the troupe. Carlyle, who had tried to save Anne not knowing she had already escaped, is rescued amid the chaos by Barnum but suffers severe burns. Most of the sets and props are destroyed. Word of Lind’s cancellation and Barnum’s public intimacy also reaches New York, resulting in his mansion being foreclosed upon and Charity taking their daughters back to her parents’ home.

Depressed, Barnum starts drinking at a pub. His troupe find him there and persuade him to rebuild the circus; Barnum has an epiphany that causes him to realize the circus was for his friends and family rather than for himself (“From Now On”). Meanwhile, the injured Carlyle wakes in a hospital with Wheeler by his side and they share an intimate moment together.

Barnum leaves and finds his estranged wife, and they decide to mend their relationship. Faced with the financial difficulty of rebuilding the circus, the recovering Carlyle steps in, offering to use his earnings from his share of the circus’s profits to rebuild it under the condition of becoming partners, which Barnum happily accepts. As rebuilding the circus in its original location would be too expensive, Barnum rebuilds it as an open-air tent circus by the docks. The new, revamped circus is a huge success; Barnum gives full control of the show to Carlyle and retires to focus on his family (“The Greatest Show”).

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