As seen originally published in The UNW Examiner.
The latest musical to release in theaters is “The Greatest Showman,” and it’s remarkably different from Hollywood’s musical hit “La La Land.” Despite the differences, both films share something in common aside from just being musicals: songs that were penned by writing duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
Song-writing team Pasek and Paul are the writers behind La La Land’s critically acclaimed “City of Stars.” They also wrote the “Audition” piece in the film. “City of Stars” has won multiple awards including an Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture.
Pasek and Paul’s score for “The Greatest Showman” includes 11 original songs that range from group numbers to empowering ballads. The songs are performed by the film’s casted Broadway stars and Hollywood actors. The soaring melodies highlight and showcase each individuals’ talents, strengths and performing abilities.
Since the release of “The Greatest Showman” in December 2017, the writing duo has won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture for the new film’s track “This is Me.” The soundtrack to the musical drama has also reached the number one spot on the Billboard music charts.
“The Greatest Showman” is drama expressed through bursts of pop infused songs. The songs are upbeat, emotion-filled and captivating. They don’t quietly beg for your attention—they loudly capture it. From the opening scene, the music draws the viewer in.
The film is set in 1800s New York and is a fast-paced story that celebrates the birth of show business. It tells the tale of a visionary (Hugh Jackman) who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. It’s inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum—an individual remembered for founding the Barnum and Bailey Circus.
While the plot is strong and the music sets the tone, if you were to take away the lyrics from the songs, the story would lose some of its narration and appeal. The music is part of what builds the film into such a success. It moves the storyline along, strengthens character development and bears the film’s many varying and changing emotions. This is what essentially puts it in the musical genre.
In contrasting difference, “La La Land” was released to theaters in December 2016 and is set in Los Angeles. It follows the story of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) as they navigate their struggling careers and relationship while trying to succeed in doing what they love. Its music is mostly jazz oriented and melodic.
“La La Land” doesn’t necessarily need the lyrics in the songs to move the movie along. The music isn’t the primary selling point of the film—the characters and the journey of self-discovery that they are on is most prominent. If you take away the music, there is still a progression of plot that stays mostly intact.
Regardless, the music in both films is gracefully crafted and passionate. Comparing the differences between the two musicals is like comparing the locations the movies are set in—Los Angeles and New York. Both are complex but are characterized in their unique ways by very different settings and playgrounds. Despite their differences, they do share some of the same goals: to dream, hope, create and inspire. Which is something both movies cover beautifully and creatively thanks to the music written by Pasek and Paul.