Musical Showdown: La La Land vs. The Greatest Showman
'The Greatest Showman is a masterpiece to which all musical films should be compared'
Ruby Clifford | 15 July 2018

Over a year ago, the whole world was still obsessing over the production, music and visuals of La La Land; and rightly so, as it went on to be highly praised at the annual Golden Globes, winning all 7 of its nominations in January 2017. If you are unfamiliar, the film follows the desperation of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) to achieve their dreams - for Seb to start up his own Jazz club and for Mia to make it as an actress - in the fairytale-like, yet crushing city of Los Angeles.

The film is now considered one of the best to come out in recent years, impressing the world with its old-school feel, musical nature and intriguing storyline, giving the audience insight into the well-loved world of Hollywood. This was the first big break for Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who composed and wrote lyrics for the most iconic song from the film’s score, City of Stars, as sung by Emma and Ryan. The two, known together as ‘Pasek and Paul’, are an American songwriting and composing duo for musical theatre, films, and television. Along with La La Land, their works include A Christmas Story, Dogfight, Edges, Dear Evan Hansen, and James and the Giant Peach, which are also highly praised and respected.

It seemed as though the pair had reached their peak with City of Stars, until their recent work on the film The Greatest Showman, which came into cinemas in December 2017. The two are responsible for all the original songs found in the film, which, inspired by the imagination of P. T. Barnum, tells the tale of a man desperate to bring his fantasy world of magic to life in the form of the a circus, amongst a judgemental and disapproving society. It is a story with a strong message of accepting people for who they are, presented mostly in the song for which they took home “Best Original Song” at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 7th 2018 - This is Me.

Both films could easily be transferred to the stage but, when comparing them as musicals, I (along with many others) would argue that The Greatest Showman has the biggest ‘wow factor’, with each unique and original song on the soundtrack being both catchy and enhancing the plotline. The same could not be said for La La Land, as despite there being a few stand out songs, without them, the story remains almost entirely intact, perhaps lessening its position as a musical; and although La La Land can be related to many struggling artists around the world, it is not actually based on a true story, unlike The Greatest Showman. While I agree that both films are one of a kind, The Greatest Showman in my opinion is a masterpiece and one to which all musical films should be compared.


Ruby Clifford.

James Routledge 2016