I’ve always loved musicals, be it live on stage or in a movie. Not surprisingly when the first trailer for The Greatest Showman hit the internet I was sold. It promised a spectacle of sight and sound, showing off colourful visuals accompanied by the catchy soaring original song “This is Me” serving as the trailer’s backing track.
But trailers can be deceiving, often showing the best parts of the movie, and the final film being a let down, not delivering on the trailer’s promise. Thankfully The Greatest Showman is not one of those films.
Telling a fanciful and romanticised version of P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), audiences are treated to a glimpse of Barnum’s life as a child, growing up, falling in love with and marrying Charity (Michelle Williams), the daughter of a upper class family, and the ups and downs that Barnum faces trying to provide for his family. His constant quest to make it big leads him to start a circus filled with people of an “odd” nature, giving these strange folk a place to call home while at the same time allowing Barnum to be able to give everything his family desires.
In a nutshell, The Greatest Showman is a modern fairy-tale that is a perfect culmination of music, singing and choreography. At one and a half hours long, it moves at a brisk pace, going from one plot point to another, resolving the conflicts that arise quickly and efficiently, never giving the audience a chance to get bored or get too much into a funk before soaring again into another song.
This is a film that doesn’t hesitate to revel in its musical numbers, and no wonder. Nearly every one of the songs by composers John Debney and Joseph Trapanese, with lyrics from La La Land lyricist Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, are toe-tapping works of art that will fill you with the urge to jump out of your seat and dance, prompting a feeling of euphoria and in some cases will likely to move you to tears. All these songs are accompanied by the stunning choreography of the ensemble, creating such an incredible showcase of fun, skill and entertainment that you can’t help feeling a wave of positivity and inspiration just wash over you.
While he may not look like the real P. T. Barnum, Hugh Jackman is perfectly cast as the lead of this film. His musical and theatrical chops are on display here, his vocal range pleasant and comforting as he croons his way through the movie, occasionally stretching himself as he belts out one of the film’s many show stopping songs. And his supporting cast are no slouches in the singing department either. Returning to the musical scene is Zac Efron as Barnum’s business partner. Efron obviously hasn’t lost any of the skills he showed off in High School Musical as he careens effortlessly from one dance number to the next, easily keeping up with Jackman. And while Jackman and Efron may be the stars of the show, Zendaya, Michelle Williams, and all of the ensemble cast are just as talented and watching some of the ensemble songs unfold before you is simply joyous.
Anyone looking for a true-to-life biopic about Barnum will not find it here. This a product of Hollywood through and through, making Jackman’s Barnum a white knight, a saviour of the more downtrodden and quirky denizens of the 1800’s whereas the real Barnum was more of self-serving character. Leaving the dark underside of the showbiz trade to films like Moulin Rouge, The Greatest Showman instead prefers to provide a family friendly story that doesn’t really delve deeply into it’s themes, content to deliver an entertaining yarn wrapped up in addictive songs and razzle-dazzle, and it’s a goal that it achieves with aplomb.
The Greatest Showman has is silly moments and the issues that it raises are quickly swept under the rug, some of the conflicts between protagonists conveniently forgotten, but for all that it’s a film focuses on being a spectacular musical extravaganza that will guarantee to make audiences feel happy from start to end.
Director Michael Gracey has created something wonderful in The Greatest Showman and I’m glad I got a chance to see it. I give the musical an 8 out of 10. If you’re a fan of musicals and amazingly catchy songs, The Great Showman should be on your watch list.