The Greatest Showman is not a musical in the classic sense, but a “Pop” musical for audiences of the 21st century. The glossy wonder in Michael Gracey's directorial debut cakes onto the screen, with a narrative that zips, songs that keep you smiling, and a cast that often charms. Sure, The Greatest Showman fails to dig into the deeper life of circus man P.T. Barnum, but Hugh Jackman brings a twinkle to the role from the moment he utters “ladies and gentlemen this is the moment you've been waiting for”, in a movie that never stops putting on a great show.   

In begins with Barnum (Ellis Rubin) as a young man, assisting his lowly father Philo, fitting suits for the wealthiest men of New York, while they struggle to make ends meet with holes opening in their shoes. This boy has a dream of doing something great one day and has his eyes set on the high society golden haired Charity (Michelle Willams). He pulls himself out of the gutter, which happens quite quickly during the song “A Million Dreams”. The couple falls in love, gets married, and has two children before you are even settled into your large popcorn, but with the music whisking us along, it's hard not to get caught up in the spectacle.

I saw The Greatest Showman early on a Sunday, and it's safe to say, if you're expecting to see a dramatic musical that digs deeper into the controversial life of the Barnum & Bailey Circus co-creator, you'll be disappointed. If you enjoy the original music of the Oscar-winning writing duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land and the current broadway hit Dear Evan Hansen) you will enjoy the spectacle at any time. The direction from Gracey is focused on the music, lavish sets, and large scale choreography. I'm reminded of other musicals such as Newsies or Cabaret, that are musicals for the back row. With a screenplay from Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon (Beauty and the Beast), one wishes there was more pause to develop Barnum's character, but the films underlying message of finding the greatness in those who are different is a message I could get behind.

Barnum earns a bank loan to open up a hall of wax figures, but slow sales force him to think bigger and invests in the living. He rounds up the cavalcade of circus characters (bearded lady, worlds tallest man, flying trapeze artists), becomes business partners with young theater director Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron reminding us of his High School Musical singing days), and the ticket sales go through the roof. Barnum's success is viewed as exploitation by some townsfolk and the local theater critic finds it to be low-entertainment. The real challenges for Barnum arrives in a talented singer he promotes and falls for named Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson). Her talent forces P.T. to focus on the things that really matter, his family and the circus people that made him a success.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the talented ensemble cast of characters. Aside from Efron showing off his many talents, proving he's wasted his time on countless bro-comedies, his shine fades whenever he's in romantic scenes with the spectacularly talented Zandaya, as trapeze artist Anne Wheeler. The Disney channel actor is a true star in the making. As the duo swings on ropes and spins in the air during their beautiful duet of “Rewrite the Stars”, it's no wonder that the actresses is being viewed as the next big thing. Outside of that, the collection of Broadway talented singers and dancers increase the quality of every song and dance number. There were moments that I felt like I was watching an actual Broadway show in New York.

The Greatest Showman may not be setting the world on fire with a revolution of new musicals, but it's certainly original. I've failed to talk much about Hugh Jackman, but his presence alone made me smile. He is a true legend in the world of musical theater, someone who showed massive range in the spectacular Logan earlier this year, and now flashes his various other talents. The Greatest Showman is exactly what you go to the movies for, pure, colorful entertainment.


Written by: Leo Brady     

The Greatest Showman