The Greatest Showman is the first musical of the year and is inspired by the incredible true story of showman Phineas ‘P.T.’ Barnum, who created the Barnum & Bailey Circus in the 19th century. Barnum became infamous for his hoaxes and human curiosities, while also known for being ahead of his time. Hugh Jackman plays the titular character and the supporting cast includes Michelle Williams as his devoted wife and Zac Efron as his business partner.
The story explores Barnum’s inception of his museum of attractions to a backdrop of musical numbers. With Jackman already proving his musical credentials with an Oscar nominated performance in the most recent adaptation of Les Miserables, here he demonstrates his dance capabilities in a variety of musical sequences. Jackman’s infectious enthusiasm radiates from the screen and he is perfectly cast in the role of the visionary Barnum.
Zac Efron is another musical veteran after turns in the High School Musical franchise and Hairspray. Efron has delved mainly into comedic roles in recent years and his return to the musical genre has been a rewarding choice. Michelle Williams proves to be adept at the musical numbers, as well as providing an ethereal presence on the screen. Having achieved stardom in Dawson’s Creek, Williams has gone on to be a versatile and credible actress, with four Academy Award nominations at the mere age of 37. Zendaya is another seasoned dance performer who provides a supporting role in the film and a love interest for Efron’s character.
“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”
Within the film’s frothy musical exterior lies a story of injustice regarding the mistreatment of others. The issues of class and race are explored in the film, with Barnum’s group of misfits being viewed with suspicion by many of the untrusting public. The love story between Efron and Zendaya’s characters is used to highlight the issue of race and mixed raced relationships as the pair try to hide their feelings for each other as well as from the world around them. Despite the periodic setting, the topic remains as relevant and current as ever in today’s world of political and racial turmoil.
The film’s central theme is a message of inclusion and embracing and celebrating uniqueness, which is demonstrated in the superb musical number This is Me. The feel good factor and the positive message of the film is capturing the hearts of moviegoers, with the film continuing to defy expectations since its release in December last year by growing in success week after week. Much of the film’s appeal can be attributed to its ability to relate to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.
“The noblest art is that of making others happy.”
The film itself was years in the making, with Jackman fearing at one point that it would never reach the big screen. The story had been his dream project since 2009, yet film studios were reluctant to take a financial risk on an original musical. Jackson’s fears looked set to be amplified as the film was poorly received by critics on its debut release. However, The Greatest Showman has proved to be one of the biggest hits of 2018 already and is currently the number one film in the UK, despite being released on Boxing Day last year. Its soundtrack has been just as successful and has been the number one album in the UK for the last five weeks and the aforementioned This is Me is sitting at number six in the singles charts.
Much of the film’s box office success is certainly due to the fantastic musical sequences in the film, which are impossible not to toe-tap along to, with the urge to get up and dance along proving difficult to resist! Other notable numbers include The Greatest Show, Rewrite the Stars and The Other Side, the latter being viewed by many as a secret metaphor for coming out. Much of the film’s soundtrack has a contemporary R&B/pop/hip hop style, contrasting with its 19th century setting. This was a deliberate move by the filmmakers to emphasise Barnum’s innovative and revolutionary ideas. A sing-along version of the film is due for release on February 23rd, which will no doubt see a resurgence for the film, particularly with the Academy Awards around the corner on March 4th. High hopes for Oscar winning success will be pinned on This is Me, which is nominated for Best Original Song, and is the film’s only Oscar nomination.
“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is bruised, this is who I’m meant to be
This is me.”
Overall, The Greatest Showman is a visually dazzling film that deserves repeated viewing. If in need of a cheerful and charming film, then a cinema trip to see The Greatest Showman is sure to brighten up anyone’s day!