Niles-Maine District Library


Take One: The Greatest Showman


Musicals have long been around since the 1920’s with the very first musical to hit the silver screen: The Jazz Singer.  Fast forward 98 years later and it’s still going strong with the release of The Greatest Showman.

A movie loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum of Barnum and Bailey’s Circus fame, it deftly blends the dramatization of Barnum’s claim to fame and the birth of show business with songs that pop and zing within every inch of the movie. What the movie lacks in story, it more than makes up for with the song and dance numbers that fill the screen. It’s infectious and gleeful, inspired by a pop soundtrack that’s not indicative for an era of that time. I found myself laughing and tapping to the beat of the drums so to speak.  By the end, you’ll find your spirits lifted and your heart tugged at the same time; a smile that will be etched on your face long after the credit roll. The songs are bolstered by such hits as “This is Me” sung by the powerful Keala Settle and the aptly titled “The Greatest Show” by Hugh Jackman, Settle, and Zac Efron who plays Philip Carlyle, a popular playwright turned partner loosely based on James Bailey.

The music was written by the songwriting duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the creative minds behind the popular musical La La Land. The lead role was undertaken by the irresistibly talented Jackman, who once again proves that his classically trained voice was meant for this type of role. The scenes act more as a background to the scenery chewing, inspirational musical numbers that play within them. Their cohesiveness is only tied together by the music’s narrative thread, which includes songs of belonging and inclusiveness, all of which is all the more relevant in today’s climate.  While I can gush about the music all day long, it only serves as a reminder of the arduous task of bringing a spectacle to the big screen. In addition to the soundtrack, The Greatest Showman boasts a colorful set and production design that recreates some of the buildings of that time, which includes the site of the original circus.

The cast looks like they’re having fun and it clearly shows on screen. There’s a kinetic energy brought on by some of the song and dance numbers, anchored by some of the cast members individual performances. One of which includes a terrific performance by Rebecca Ferguson (who didn’t actually sing the song, “Never Enough”).  A little-known fact, but the voice actually belongs to *Spoiler Alert* Loren Allred of The Voice fame.  Rounding out the cast is Michelle Williams, as Barnum’s childhood love and wife, and Zendaya, who plays one half of a brother-sister trapeze act who has taken an interest in Efron’s character.  The choreography sizzles and never lets go, propelling the movie to soar to new heights.  Viewers will be left astounded and amazed by how well the musical numbers weaves through the plot.  And when you find yourself singing along, you’ll realize that this indeed is the greatest show.

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