I wasn't someone who loved La La Land. Even though the same people who wrote the music for Dear Evan Hansen also wrote the music for La La Land, it didn't really touch me in the same way other movies and musicals have. Don't get me wrong, Mia's story as a struggling actress was something I find pretty relatable, but that's all I truly felt connected to. When Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the writers of the previously mentioned musicals, announced that they had written ten songs for a new movie called The Greatest Showman, I watched the trailer, thought it looked interesting, and then put in a box at the back of my mind to take out on a later date.
Over Christmas break, my mom and I went to see it. After watching the trailer a couple more times and listening to some of the songs, I decided it was worth it. After seeing it, I can attest to the fact that it is a beautiful, magnificent piece of cinematic glory and everyone should see it. But before I can get into why I loved it so much, you need to know some of my backstory of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
You already know that they wrote Dear Evan Hansen, and if you want to see why I love that musical so much, you can read a piece I wrote at the end of August here. This was the first time I had ever listened to music by them, and, as you'll know if you've read the previously mention essay, I loved it very, very much. I also really related to it, which is the main reason I love Pasek and Paul so much. They write music that I can relate to, music that makes my heart happier and my dreams a little bit bigger. The music for DEH, Dogfight, and even La La Land each have songs that make me feel a little more understood, which is something we all could use every once in a while.
In terms of being understood, I often find that few people truly understand why I want to work in theatre. And I get it, it's not your typical dream job. Most people I know who want to work as an actor have the dream of working in TV or movies, but I've always wanted to be part of theatre. There have been a few times where I've told someone I want to work in a theatre/own my own theatre company/teach acting, and all I've gotten in return is a side glance, some rolled eyes, or a comment somewhere along the lines of "Well, that's nice. But what will you do if it doesn't work out?" Because of moments like that, it can be hard to remember why I've chosen theatre, and even harder to feel understood in my dreams.
Enter The Greatest Showman. A story about P.T. Barnum, the circus, underdogs, and trapeze love stories. When the first song, The Greatest Show, began, I was already crying. While the song played, we see Hugh Jackman and the entire circus (complete with elephants) going through the song. The happiness is infectious, and every time I watch that opening scene I get teary eyed. As the song ends, we see P.T. Barnum be transformed back to his childhood self, signifying his dreams to perform but that his life is stuck. The joy, feelings of hope and longing, and the infectious happiness are all things I can relate to, and in listening to that song, I felt understood.
Many of the other songs on the soundtrack did the same thing, mainly This is Me, and A Million Dreams. Pasek and Paul have this uncanny ability to put my feelings into music, whether I knew I felt them or not. I loved this movie because I felt understood. I felt validated in my choice of career, and I felt excited about the prospects. I could go into more detail about why This is Me made me sob profusely the first time I heard it, or why the end of the movie with the ballet recital made me think about a lot of things for a long time, but those are both stories for another time. For now, I want to say that everyone who has found something that they love should be able to do that thing without feeling misunderstood, or like what they love to do is something to hide.
The Greatest Showman reminded me of why I love theatre and music, and why I love the people who love those things as much as I do. Do what you love, find the people who understand why you love it, and find the people who love it as much as you do. Life is far too short to do the things that make you unhappy. Life moves too fast to give up before you even get a chance to start.