Movie Review: The Greatest Showman

Inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman celebrates the birth of show business with an empowering storyline, eleven original songs by the Academy-Award-winning lyricists of LaLa Land, and spectacular choreography.

Hugh Jackman dominates practically all the scenes as he assumes the role of the larger-than-life visionary, who rose from humble beginnings to create a worldwide sensation. A long-time fan of Jackman, I found him irresistible as he sang and danced in his red impresario’s coat and top hat. Definitely a contender in the award season ahead.

I was also impressed by the supporting cast.

Michelle Williams delivers an excellent performance as Barnum’s behind-the-scenes wife, Charity. Possessing a strong, clear voice, she comes across as supportive and adventurous, choosing to leave behind a privileged background to follow Barnum on his entrepreneurial journey.

Zac Efron embraces the role of playwright and society boy Phillip Carlyle. An unlikely collaborator, Carlyle is a quick study, stepping in whenever Barnum leaves to pursue other artistic paths. His budding romance with an African-American trapeze artist (Zendaya) provides many tender, bittersweet moments. Their standout performance takes place in the empty circus tent when Zendaya flies on the trapeze as Efron tries to meet her partway, all to the haunting lyrics of “Rewrite the Stars.”

I was moved by the courage of all the “human oddities” that Barnum recruited for his “Museum of Curiosities.” My favorite–Lettie Lutz the “Bearded Lady”–played by Tony-nominee Keala Settle. Cringing from shame, Lettie reluctantly agrees to participate in the show and then uses her powerhouse voice to transform into a fearless Diva.

While the “real” story has darker undertones, director Michael Gracey has chosen to downplay those elements, focusing on the importance of diversity, encapsulated by P.T. Barnum’s philosophy: “Everyone is special, and nobody is like anyone else.”

A class act for the whole family to enjoy.


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