The Greatest Showman

greatest showman
The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman is the latest movie musical to hit the big screen. This one focuses on the story of P.T.Barnum and stars Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron.

greatest showmanHaving recently seen a production of the musical Barnum I was especially intrigued to see the show and discover a new take on this well known tale. The Greatest Showman follows Barnum (Hugh Jackman) who marries his childhood sweetheart, Charity (Michelle Williams). Barnum is determined to make something of himself but his museum isn’t the instant success he had hoped, until he introduces live acts including trapeze artists (Zendaya), a bearded lady (Keala Settle), general Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey), a giant and many more.  Over the years Barnum struggles with what’s important to him but after time on the road with his newest attraction, Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) he returns home to what is important to him.

The story itself doesn’t go as far as the original musical and stops when Barnum opens his big top but the focus of this musical is less on Barnum’s life but more on acceptance. Acceptance is considered in the form of a mixed race relationship between Barnum’s partner (Zac Efron) and Zendaya, the circus attractions accepting who they are and Barnum accepting his place in society.  This common theme helps bind together the various sub-plots and brings a human element to the musical.

Many critics have seen the themes stemming out the ‘freaks’ as under explored and criticised the movie for not being true to Barnum’s life. The criticism regarding The Greatest Showman lacking historical accuracy and gravitas did not bother me at all. When going to the cinema you go to be entertained and for a man that specialized in entertainment this feel good movie would be a fitting legacy.

Greatest showmanThe music in this is enjoyable and testament to this is the fact that I have listened to the soundtrack several times since, including the car journey home. The song, ‘This is Me,’ sung by Keala Settle is the great musical theatre rousing number and ‘Rewrite the Stars,’ with Efron and Zendaya is a stunning visual feast. My only disappointment was the fact that Rebecca Ferguson as Jenny Lind is dubbed by Loren Allred. The part of Jenny Lind is reliant upon her being a phenomenal singer but surely there are enough talented professionals out there that can sing and act the part.

The highlight of the film are the numbers set with the circus acts. The choreography within these numbers are a real spectacle and ones where I often didn’t know where to look on the screen as there was so much intricate and clever movement happening.

The entirety of the cast are strong in this film but it was a delight to see Hugh Jackman back in musical theatre with Efron alongside him. Jackman does the majority of the work throughout the movie and has the most developed character and others such as Charity could be more rounded and Williams acting credentials were wasted in this role. Zendaya however was a revelation. She was utterly enchanting as Anne and portrayed her struggle in coming to terms with societies view on a mixed race relationship in an intelligent way.

Whilst The Greatest Showman may take artistic license on Barnum’s life story. It also may not push the political implications of the circus freaks and acceptance as far as some may want, yet the film is brilliant escapism. The film still has an underlying current of how important acceptance is, coupled with numerous songs that just won’t leave my subconscious and a stellar cast it is a film that I will watch on repeat when I want to escape for a few hours.


If you like this review you might also like my review of Barnum at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

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