The Greatest Showman - Plot

2017 Musical Film
The Greatest Showman - Plot

P. T. Barnum and his father, a tailor, work for the Hallett family. The young Barnum jokes with Charity Hallett; he is reprimanded, and her father grounds her. The two meet again outside, where Charity tells Barnum she 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 Lyrics"), eventually marrying, raising two children ("A Million Dreams (Reprise) Lyrics") in New York City. They live a humble life; though Charity is happy, Barnum dreams of more.

Barnum is laid off from 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 goods as collateral. He uses this loan to build 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 Lyrics"). This attracts a large audience, despite protests and poor reviews (one of which prompts Barnum to rename his venture to "Barnum's Circus" out of spite).

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 Lyrics"). Carlyle soon becomes enamored with circus performer Anne Wheeler, an African-American trapeze artist. Carlyle arranges for Barnum and his troupe to meet Queen Victoria, whom they amuse; at this visit, Barnum meets Jenny Lind, a famed Swedish singer, who he convinces to perform in America, himself serving as her manager. At Lind's performance ("Never Enough Lyrics"), Carlyle upsets Wheeler by not showing affection for her when his parents notice; otherwise, the performance is a success. Barnum takes her on a U.S. tour, in the process neglecting his original circus, to the dejection to the troupe's performers, who feel ignored ("This Is Me Lyrics"). Carlyle arranges Wheeler's attendance to the theater with him, but after Carlyle's parents insult Wheeler, she leaves. Carlyle chases her, trying to convince her that they can be together, but she rejects him ("Rewrite the Stars Lyrics"). Charity feels isolated from her husband as she stays home and takes care of their children ("Tightrope Lyrics").

While on tour, Lind becomes attached to Barnum, making advances towards him; when he declines, she angrily calls off the tour. During the following performance's curtain call ("Never Enough (Reprise) Lyrics"), she kisses him. Barnum returns home to find his circus on fire because of a fight between protesters and the troupe. In the chaos, Carlyle believes Wheeler to be in the burning building and races to rescue her; when Wheeler emerges unharmed on her own, Barnum heads into the burning building to save Carlyle. After the fire, most of the set and props have been destroyed and Carlyle has been gravely injured. Word of Lind's cancellation and Barnum's public intimacy reaches New York, resulting in severe financial difficulties for him and estrangement from his wife.

Depressed, Barnum starts drinking. His troupe of performers visit him, persuading him to rebuild the circus; he resolves to, in future, keep down-to-earth rather than being carried away by reputation and wealth ("From Now On Lyrics"). Meanwhile, the injured Carlyle wakes in hospital with Wheeler by his side. Barnum visits his estranged wife, and they rebuild their relationship. After Barnum has difficulty finding a bank willing to loan money to rebuild the circus, the recovering Carlyle steps in - having saved his profits from the circus, Carlyle offers his earnings to rebuild 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 harbor. The new, rebuilt circus is a great success; Barnum hands over the reins of the show to Carlyle and retires to focus more on his family ("The Greatest Show Lyrics"). Carlyle finishes the show and kisses Wheeler, while Barnum rides an elephant to meet Charity and the girls.

The film ends with Barnum and Charity watching Caroline perform in the ballet, and Barnum acknowledging that everything he ever wanted and needed is right in front of him.

Other Songs: The Greatest Showman Songs Lyrics
Plot to The Greatest Showman