In January 2017, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the circus founded by P.T. Barnum, announced they would be closing their doors forever, due to decreased attendance and protests by animal rights activists. Their last shows were in May 2017.
Rebecca Ferguson admitted in an interview that she was extremely nervous when she had to perform a song in the film because she had to sing in front of a full audience plus all the crew. She commented that it was Hugh Jackman and his encouraging response to her performance that really helped her at the time.
The Greatest Showman (2017) will feature eleven new original songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of La La Land (2016). From early on in preproduction on the film, the decision was made to have the musical style to evoke more that of contemporary musical genres like pop and hip hop rather than that of a traditional, classical musical style that would accurately evoke the film's 1800s setting. The choice was to express not just the characters' feelings, but how ahead of his time P.T. Barnum was. As Pasek said, "He wasn't bound by the world in which he lived; he wanted to create one."
Carey Mulligan and Ellen Page were in early talks for the role of Jenny Lind. Director Michael Gracey visited Rebecca Ferguson at her home in London with a TV under his arm and picked the film and the part of Jenny Lind to her, because she was his choice to play that part in the film.
A well known musical based on P.T.'s life, "Barnum", starring Jim Dale and Glenn Close, was a fine hit on Broadway. With songs written by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart, the show demands a tour-de-force performance from its star.