This Is The Greatest Show
The noblest art is that of making others happy. ~ P. T. Barnum
First announced in 2009 with Hugh Jackman in the title role, The Greatest Showman would not be released for another eight years because studios were reluctant to take a risk on an original musical. Thankfully, it was released in late 2017 for the world to enjoy. With 11 beautiful original songs and a brilliant ensemble cast, it’s hard to resist going to see such a movie. The question, of course, is whether the movie is worth ten dollars a ticket.
Historical accuracy is not the movie’s best quality. It hides some of the darker aspects of Barnum’s life and career to keep the entertaining and heartwarming nature of the story. However, that’s not what I’m here to comment on. As a whole, The Greatest Showman has a beautiful story with a fantastic message to go along with it. The movie itself narrates the life of a young P. T. Barnum and his desire to be more than what he was, which culminates in the creation of the Barnum Circus that we know today. It’s a story about being different and finding a family with people who love you for what you are. Judge The Greatest Showman and its story by what it tries to be, not what you want it to be.
Our three main characters are the optimistic – if misguided – P. T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), circus partner Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron), and trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya). The chemistry between Philip and Anne is real, from their first interaction to the last musical number. Philip and Barnum also share a bond throughout the movie that moves from business to friendship, and we believe it due to the pairing of Efron and Jackman. However, the real stars of the show are the circus members themselves. They are scorned throughout the movie because they are different, the main conflict and message of the movie. Despite the scorn and hatred from the public, the circus shows us just how beautiful they really are when they stand together and against the world in their ensemble song ‘This Is Me‘. The characters are what make it the greatest show.
Ellen Mirojnick, an award-winning costume designer, is the mastermind behind the wardrobe for The Greatest Showman. In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, Mirojnick discussed her inspiration from real 19th-century costumes. Her costume designs are what really brings us to 1871, reminding us that these characters are real and so are their struggles. Some of the real stand-outs from her work are Anne Wheeler’s lavender aerialist costume that she wears during the circus numbers and the intricate white dress that Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) wears during her ‘Never Enough‘ sequences. My favorite costume, though, was P. T. Barnum’s dazzling red jacket and black top-hat in his debut number at the start of the film ‘The Greatest Show‘. From our first introduction to the last, we know that Barnum is our star and that he sees himself as such too.
The songs are written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the same team who wrote the lyrics for La La Land and composed the score for A Christmas Story. They’ve shown their talent on multiple levels, so it makes them the perfect pair to write for The Greatest Showman. Their songs do as they should in a musical, advancing the story and connecting us to the characters. The music itself is toe-tapping, beautiful, and true from every character. Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron singing together in ‘The Other Side‘ is a duet I didn’t know I needed. Efron also stars in his duet with Zendaya, a beautiful melody about rewriting the stars so that they can be together.
The Greatest Showman is a movie that everyone should go out and enjoy its magic and wonder. While there are some flaws, like every movie, it is still a fantastic retelling of the Barnum Circus. It’s also a good family movie, perfect for people of all ages to enjoy together. If you get the chance, please go see it!