‘Ladies and Gents this is the moment you’ve waited for…’ The Greatest Showman is the moment that everyone has longed for, an original movie musical that entertains and exceeds all expectations! This film is to say the least spectacular in all its glory and a story that brings musical theatre to the mainstream. Hugh Jackman is the leader of this brilliant precocious project. The ‘showman’ himself sought to have the film made for 7 years and finally got in the circus ring with the premiere this past Christmas season.
This fantastic ride of a film is inspired by the true story of P. T Barnum’s circus which later became Barnum & Bailey’s Travelling Circus. Barnum named himself a ‘showman’ and forever changed the nature of commercial entertainment in the 19th century and it affects how we are kept amused today. His fascination with bringing to the forefront the weird and wonderful oddities that are featured at the Barnum Museum, was the major selling point that the movie took from his life story.
Australian director, Michael Gracey had a remarkable vision for the film’s trajectory; he followed through with heart and was honoured Hugh Jackman thought of him in directing his passion project. Another key aspect of the film’s triumph was the incomparable music and lyrics that made the characters ‘come alive’ and further along the unbelievable story.
Young and successful Benj Pasek and Justin Paul were the talented brains behind hit after hit song in this movie musical. Already known in the industry for their musicals ‘Dogfight’, ‘A Christmas Story’ (which had a live production on FOX in December), an Oscar win for ‘La la land’ and most recently a Tony win for new Broadway smash ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ you wouldn’t think they could keep topping themselves, but this soundtrack is pure magic.
The ‘showman’ of the piece Australian actor, Mr. Hugh Jackman takes the lead with his heart and soul at the centre of this brand new original masterpiece. Jackman, of course plays the infamous P.T Barnam. His character grew up with hard circumstances being poor in New York in the mid 1800s, with his younger self played by brilliant young actor, Ellis Rubin.
Jackman portrays this character when he grows up to find he can make his own destiny and imagines a better and more colourful life for himself. The legend of stage and screen so realistically illustrates Barnum’s inside struggles. However on the outside he is more determined than ever to make an impression on the wealthy but beautiful girl, Charity Hallett he knew when he was just a tailor’s boy.
Hugh was born to play this role. As a true triple threat theatre performer he was a perfect fit to take the audience on this magical theatrical storyline. The legendary actor shines especially when he enlists all of his live performers and encourages them to believe in themselves and their differences throughout the song, ‘Come Alive.’ Jackman portrays a loving, compassionate person caring for his children’s future and the oddities as he is with this passion project.
Also his interaction with Zac Efron’s character, playwright Philip Carlyle reminds me a lot of the relationship between Jean Val Jean and Javert mostly in the bar scene where they belt out ‘The Other Side’. This song is Barnum convincing Carlyle to join his circus venture as Carlyle is a successful playwright and Barnum is looking to impress the upper class. Jackman is a class act and leads the movie with enthusiasm and heart.
The handsome and adventurous, Zac Efron as previously mentioned embodies playwright and producer, Philip Carlyle. Efron shows off his singing and dancing chops in this new venture. Zac really presents his talent on a large scale as he has done before in films like the High School Musical franchise and Hairspray. This time it is his heartfelt nature towards the oddities, especially Anne Wheeler, the trapeze artist that pulls the heart strings for me.
Among the acts in Barnum’s circus are the two trapeze artists, as I touched on above, siblings Anne and W. D Wheeler portrayed by the phenomenal actress and singer, Zendaya and the incredible Yahya Abdul-Mateen II respectively. Zendaya is a force to be reckoned with in this film as a swinging sensation. Her take on the character is brilliant as she stays true to herself whilst lettting herself fall for Zac Efron’s character Philip; however unenthusiastic in the beginning as he was a high member of society.
Zendaya illustrates a vulnerable side to her acting I haven’t seen before. She also does her own stunts for the trapeze work during my favourite part in the film, the duet ‘Rewrite the Stars’ with Zac Efron’s character. That moment is not only spectacular and magical because of her stunts, but her VOICE is out of this world and blending with Zac’s is so important for these two worlds as they collide together.
The infamous Bearded Lady is played by musical theatre superstar, Keala Settle. Keala is a powerful entity in this film and carries the oddities in the groundbreaking, now Golden Globe winning (also Oscar nominated) song, ‘This is Me.’ The song comes just prior to the scene where Barnum throws a party following the debut of Jenny Lind’s (Swedish Nightingale singer, that Barnum discovers) first performance in America.
Barnum is caught up in the limelight Jenny brings him; he refuses to let the acts that made him famous join him in celebration. That is a standout emotional moment for me and for the oddities feeling neglected. However Keala rises to the occasion during this number, with her killer vocals, emotion for this sequence and throughout the film.
Michelle Williams plays P.T Barnum’s wife, Charity. Her character comes from a very privileged family and meets Barnum when they are children whilst assisting his father, a tailor (played by Will Swenson). Michelle embodies a very honest role. She just wants to live a simple life and her husband feels like he needs to give her a life of luxury, success and money. Williams particularly shines in her solo number ‘Tightrope’, where her voice is showcased beautifully and her character longs for her husband to return home and not have to prove anything to her or their children.
Rebecca Ferguson gives life to the role of the incredible European songstress, Jenny Lind that Barnum discovers whilst visiting Queen Victoria with his circus. Barnum takes her back to New York thinking she will make it big and wow the crowds in America. She certainly does and goes on tour with Barnum showcasing her angelic voice to the masses.
Actress, Rebecca Ferguson illustrates Jenny brilliantly and gives her the grace, poise and raw emotion this character needs. Although Ferguson doesn’t sing the breathtaking ballad, ‘Never Enough’ that Ms Lind belts out like the ‘Swedish Nightingale’ she is appropriately trademarked, the exquisite singer Loren Allred lends her spectacular pipes for the performance.
Additionally, the children in this production are stars in their own right. Beginning with Young Barnam and Young Charity who are brought to life by Ellis Rubin, Ziv Zaifman (Ellis’ singing voice) and Skylar Dunn, their parts are short however they do set up the lives of the principal characters beautifully. This is especially shown in the scene when Barnum is making her laugh in the mansion and during the number ‘Million Dreams.’
Austyn Johnson and Cameron Seely personify the playful dreamers that are Barnum’s two daughters, Caroline and Helen respectively. The young ladies act wonderfully by presenting Barnum’s love of his show through their quirks and singing ability in ‘Million Dreams (Reprise).’ Austyn in particular shines a light on her ballet and dancing talent whereas Cameron who plays her sister, is the comic relief at the end as she is chosen for first tree to the right.
The whole cast is brilliant and comes together as a family throughout the majority of the film. I especially love all of the oddities and Sam Humphrey, who is a New Zealand actor living in Australia, playing Charles Stratton, also known as General Tom Thumb. I think his reluctant nature in the opening to embrace his height, is beautiful and makes his triumph in the circus even more victorious.
Another mention has to be given to the unstoppable and creative dancing in the film, for instance in the numbers ‘Come Alive’ and ‘From Now On.’ The choreography by Australian, Ashley Wallen, is very inventive and modern but still fits in this period piece.
I definitely recommend everyone of all ages seeing this film with your family or close friends before it goes off. It has heart, incredible music and a story full of hope. It sends a message to all that your differences are what make you powerful and I can’t praise it enough.
The Greatest Showman is nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars for the song, “This Is Me” – Benj Pasek, Justin Paul.
Tune in to the 90th Academy Awards on 5 March 2018 on Channel 9. Don’t miss it!