Author’s note: Some creative license has been taken in the following article.
There’s a video that did the rounds in the wake of The Greatest Showman’s release (“The Greatest Showman | “From Now On” with Hugh Jackman | 20th Century FOX”. 25 million views as of time of writing.)
The video — prefaced with a introduction by Hugh Jackman and TGS director Michael Gracey — takes place at a full cast table reading (singing?) where the assembled cast have come together to belt out the movie’s tunes in a dry run; an event eight months in the making due to scheduling conflicts.
Setting the scene in the preamble with Gracey, Hugh explains how he had recently undergone surgery to remove a cancerous cyst from his nose, which will justify:
1. Why his nose is bandaged during the upcoming scene.
2. Why he abstains from singing ‘From Now On’, a powerful number that kicks in during the redemptive third act of the movie. Doctors orders prohibit him from any strenuous vocal activity while the wound heals.
The scene begins with Hugh standing up front surrounded by the ensemble, hands on his hips as the opening notes of ‘From Now On’ begin and a young lad a fair bit shorter than Hugh with a pocket full of dreams serenades the opening bars:
“From now on/These eyes will not be blinded by the lights.”
Hugh nods, silent, and sways his head in passionate affirmation of the lyrics. He grows more restless with each sung line. He’s feeling it, by god, he’s FEELING it, and the cyst-imposed muteness is take its toll on this artist — his powers of expression reduced to nodding and some skyward finger-pointing. The bright-eyed Hugh-surrogate meanders towards the chorus, ecstatic in the approving presence of his idol. This is the kid’s Big Break. This is his golden opportunity to prove his melodic worth.
But wait, because here something miraculous happens. The youtube video cuts to a close-up of Hugh, presumably so we can watch his internal-struggle-cum-outpouring-of-passion unfold in algorithm-muddied HD. With flagrant disregard for doctors orders, Hugh begins crooning along to the piano strains. Quietly muttering at first, then with growing volume and conviction until by the time he hits the on-ramp of the next chorus, Hugh is in full headshaking, finger wagging, chest beating form. What an artist, what a talent.
“From now on!”, he expounds, suppressing (we imagine) the agony of eighty rupturing stitches. Whoops issue from cast and crew and the thing hits a fervor as everybody gets caught in the moment. The chorus of backup singers bob in harmony, and someone climbs on a table, I think.
Amid the raucous clapping and furor our cameraman pans out to reveal the kid, now absorbed into the chorus, all toe-tapping and teeth. Another voice in the din.
And one can’t help but feel for the boy: The Hugh-surrogate. From his scrappy opening bars to the ebbing and eventual silence that follows when Hugh decides to forego a medical expert’s advice, and all of a sudden the Opportunity Of A Lifetime is over for this diminutive lad who kind of stands there with a pained half-smile on his face, probably dying inside and willing Hugh’s exertions to do some lasting nasal damage.
He points repeatedly and energetically at Hugh, whether in mock imitation of Hugh’s own finger-pointing or in an accusing way as though indicting him among a police line-up of dream-destroyers it is unclear. They exchange a sloppy (Hugh-initiated) high-five as the music swells again.
The song ends and the kid takes up his music binder and exits stage right to take his unremarkable place in the ensemble, patting Hugh’s substantial shoulder as he passes. A gesture to which — to his credit — Hugh reciprocates with a conciliatory pat of his own.
Hugh’s back, and he’s ready for the next song.