By Laurie Coker
It seems that each year, a requisite musical comes to the big screen. Often a Hollywood will fashion a film from a Broadway hit. This year, The Greatest Showman, based on the life of P.T.Barnum, founder of the three-ring circus spectacular, makes its way to theatres – not by way of Broadway, but in an original biopic directed by Michael Gracey and co-written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon. The Greatest Showman is a raucous, enthusiastic, musical extravaganza that highlights the versatile talents of its stars, Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, and Zendaya.
Starting from nothing, having stolen the hand of his first love, Barnum (Jackman) gained notoriety and wealth by putting together a band of, oddities, acrobats and other performers. Shunned by the upper-class, dogged by a critic and against the odds, Barnum entertained without apologies. The film’s story begins with Barnum as a child but moves quickly to the man’s life under the watchful eye of critics and skeptics. Barnum began his money-making schemes as child, selling snacks and cherry rum to soldiers and then, with a knack for entertaining and sales, he opened Barnum’s American Museum in which he displayed attractions like the bearded women, the Fiji mermaid and “General Tom Thumb.” Soon he showcased singers, aerial artists, clowns, and animals. When the Museum falls to fire, Barnum packs up his crew and entertains under the Big Top. His shows were fantastical, shocking and awe-inspiring.
Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, John Debney, and Joseph Trapanese collaborated to compose the toe-tapping, remarkably memorable music for film and its stars belt them out beautifully. Musicals turn on whether or not the audience leaves the theatre remembering and best yet, singing the show’s songs and this happens with The Greatest Showman. Couple with Gracey’s spectacular staging and vivid imagery. Colors leap from the screen like the characters who dance and fly from scene to scene. Costumes are sheer perfection and stunning, even the gloomiest colors pop. The 1840’s come to vivid, breathtaking life as fashioned by Gracey and his undeniably talented crew of animators, artists, and costumers.
The Greatest Showman, as penned by Bicks, is only loosely based on the Barnum story, and it highlights the more positive aspects of the man’s eccentric and intriguing life, but it has it all in terms of musical. The Great Showman would make Barnum proud – excitement, drama, romance, thrills, and amusement abound! Not one minute of the film’s hour and forty-five-minute runtime is wasted. The PG-rated The Greatest Showman is indeed an extravaganza for all senses and it ears a solid A in my grade book.