Review: The Greatest Showman

 

The Greatest Showman tells P.T Barnum’s journey from a poor street kid to the founder of the circus and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. What better way to tell P.T’s story but through dance and numerous musical numbers.

P.T (Hugh Jackman) is looking to give his wife Charity (Michelle Williams) and their kids the life he promised. He has a light bulb moment one night and comes up with an idea for a museum for oddities. This idea morphs into what we now know as the circus.

The story of P.T isn’t just about his creation of the circus, it covers his struggles with acceptance into high society and his many battles with critics and residents regarding the types of people he has working in the circus.

The opening musical number, “A Million Dreams” sets the tone for the film. It’s a big musical number full of bright colors and a catchy song that’s easy to sing along with.  It’s the kind of song musical’s bank on to get an Academy Award nomination or at least a performance at the ceremony.

The film is full of music that appeals demographics. It prevents the film from having a specific type of music throughout, but it makes for a film full of diverse music performances.

The best musical number comes courtesy of Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) performing “Never Enough.” – easily the best song on the soundtrack.  It’s the only performance without a dance number or any theatrics. It’s just Ferguson, a microphone, and a crowd. It’s the most emotional song in the film. This standstill performance allows  the lyrics to sit with the audience and reflect on P.T’s relationship with Charity and his relationship with a class of people that won’t accept him.

Spider-Man Homecoming’s breakout star Zendaya lends her talents as a trapeze artist, Anne Wheeler. Zac Efron’s High School Musical days come in handy as Phillip Carlyle, a playwright P.T brings in to help with the production of the circus.

Through all the songs and drama, Showman never stops being a fun ride. The songs placement throughout film never hinders the pacing of the film. Director Michael Gracey is also telling a visual story that makes it hard to take your eyes off the screen.

If there’s two things that hold Showman back – its missing the vibrant storytelling that made Chicago a success and it has an ambiguous take on P.T’s exploitation of his staff. As interesting as P.T was, some of the moments between songs feel a little flat. The big musical number, “This is Me” about the circus performers loving who they are even though they’re treated unfairly. It’s a great performance despite the film barely touching on the topic, except to move the plot along.

The Greatest Showman is a fun modern musical. Hopefully the success of La La Land created a paradigm shift, and Hollywood is giving a second look at musicals despite previously not wanting to take chances on them. Hopefully audiences will get more fun musicals sooner than later.

Grade: B

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