Review by: Vitali Gueron
The upcoming original musical The Greatest Showman is directed by Michael Gracey, and written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon. First time Australian director Gracey made a wonderful decision to turn The Greatest Showman into a modern-musical, opting for modern day pop style songs over 1800s tunes. Convincing 20th Century FOX, Gracey was instrumental in hiring songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Tony award winners for the original musical Dear Evan Hansen and then Golden Globe and OSCAR winners for the La La Land song City of Stars). Pasek and Paul wrote eleven original songs for The Greatest Showman, each more emotional than the last. Their original song This Is Me, has so far been nominated for a Golden Globe and could be in play for the Best Original Song category at this year’s OSCARS.
The film is inspired by the life of circus creator and father of modern show business, P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman). Supporting Barnum are his supportive wife Charity (Michelle Williams), his business partner Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), the acrobat & trapeze-artist that Carlyle scandalously falls for. Broadway star Keala Settle stars as the Bearded Lady and she sings This is Me to perfection. She nearly runs away with the whole movie.
When Barnum struggles supporting his circus made up of freaks and bizarre acts, he invited and hires Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), a famous Swedish opera singer to perform in America for the first time. Barnum called Lind “The Swedish Nightingale” and she ended up being a big hit and performing over 90 concerts for him before quitting the tour and breaking her contract with Barnum. Lind had wearied of Barnum’s assertive marketing of her and that she would end up like Barnum’s circus. When Barnum returns to New York after the tour, the building housing his circus catches fire and while no one is hurt, the building is a total loss. Barnum then figures out that he doesn’t need a whole building to house the circus but rather a very large tent.
Zendaya and Zac Efron have a wonderful connection onscreen, especially when they perform the acrobatically-demanding musical number Rewrite The Stars and when he defends her in front of his parents. They share some terrific chemistry, but it’s hard to beat the moments when Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman share the screen. One of the best scenes in the film is when Barnum talks Carlyle into joining the circus, and they try to out-dance each other. They do this during the song The Other Side. There are also beautiful renditions of Tightrope by Michelle Williams and Never Enough, performed by Loren Allred who provides Jenny Lind’s singing voice in the movie.
The Greatest Showman feels a little predictable and disjoined at times, but the emotions in the movie feel true and very authentic. The movie make you want to care for Barnum and what happens with his family, so you probably won’t care if it is a little over the top – musicals are supposed to be that way. It’s the perfect film to enjoy with the whole family over the holidays; even if you’re someone who hates musicals this one might be the one that convinces you to give it a try. At least one can appreciate the hard work it is to write a whole new, original musical. I have to give them props for a job well done.
Have you seen ‘The Greatest Showman’? Well, what did you think?