THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

“The Greatest Showman” is beautifully inspiring

As a modern take on a classic tale of self-acceptance, “The Greatest Showman” tells a cautionary tale of dreaming too big and features different lessons through different characters whose lives intertwine. Dazzling visuals, dynamic choreographies and a compelling plotline backed by a masterful soundtrack makes the 2017 take on the recently closed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus come alive. The film features Hugh Jackman as the scruffy, ambitious Barnum, whose quick rise to fame leads to devastating consequences, Zac Efron as the sensible but strong-willed Phillip Carlyle and Zendaya as Anne Wheeler, the trapeze artist who captures Carlyle’s heart.

The audience is introduced to the young, bright-eyed P.T. Barnum, mistreated and deep in poverty, whose progression is shown through the song “A Million Dreams.” While singing “Every time I lay in bed/ The brightest colors fill my head/ A million dreams are keeping me awake,” Barnum marries his childhood friend and has a happy family. However, he is unable to support his family and thus creates a circus of “freaks,” people who did not fit the conventional image expected by society and were relegated to shame in the 1850s. Once his act becomes successful, however, his dreams to support his family quickly become dreams of fame, and he neglects his responsibilities, which causes his eventual downfall.

Rebecca Ferguson, playing Jenny Lind, sings “Never Enough,” a song she performs while on tour with Barnum. The lyrics describe his insatiable desire for approval, leading him to disregard his family, friends and previous dreams for shallower desires. And perhaps it is the resolve of Barnum’s character that makes him a likeable character, as he eventually hits rock bottom but builds himself back up.

However, with Barnum as the main focus, the film’s attempt at a show of diversity is overshadowed, and the rest of the cast is not given any more than a few appearances. With such a large variety of characters that are unique in appearance and personality, more focus could have been put on the circus performers rather than Barnum. Nevertheless, the film’s colorful visuals and catchy music make the childhood dream of a circus come to life.

The movie’s soundtrack, written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul is impressive, embodying the personalities of the characters while fitting into the narrative. The narrative’s turning points fit with the different tone of the songs to intensify the wild, upbeat and slow emotions. Despite combining multiple elements from different genres, the songs are harmonious. In the award-winning song,

“This is me,” the circus performers chant, “I’m not scared/ to be seen/ I make no apologies/ This is me! ,” as they troop back to theatre in the face of protesters, having been betrayed by Barnum in the previous scene. The triumphant, vindictive turn is a surprising change of pace, as it deviates from the sad scene that is expected to one of power, strength and teamwork. Similarly, the rest of the soundtrack integrates perfectly so that the songs are a smooth continuation of the narrative.

Although the separate issues of discrimination that the performers face are not addressed, the stories that the film presents follow the theme of self-acceptance, which is especially relevant today, and strengthens the overall heartwarming vibes. “The Greatest Showman” is a must-see that is excellent in all aspects, even though it fails to develop the characters completely. Given that it is standard for a film to be shorter than a live performance, however, the flaw is hardly noticeable when compared to the outstanding music, acting, set and story.

Written by Jamie Chen, Scene editor

Photo courtesy of thegreatestshowmantickets.com


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