The Greatest Showman
- Hugh Jackman
- Zac Efron
- Michelle Williams
The Greatest Showman is a made for the movies musical about P.T. Barnum, the king of bunk and humbug, the creator of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The late great circus. Kids now will grow up wondering what’s a circus.
This is the kind of movie I wouldn’t normally go to, but, what the hey, it was 7 below zero, I was out with the girls, and I was desperate for something different. For another world. For magic. Besides it was $5 Tuesday.
From beginning to end this movie extravaganza is a miracle of motion. It has all the exuberance and appeal of a great, big Glee. A show stopper. What does that phrase even mean? But from the first number to the credits it was engaging. No slow moments.
And the theater was packed. People wanted to see this movie. Whole families, classesmates, youth groups, etc date-night. I was surprised as I’d not really heard a lot of hoopla about this film. Except my neighbor who came home and said she’d seen it with her daughter. She looked like she’d been to a revival.
It was the kind of experience that when it was over, everyone clapped and cheered.
I read a review that said the story was shallow. Hello! Has this critic ever seen Bye Bye Birdie or Hairspray? Musical theater tends to simplify. They have to in order to get the audience to stay in their seats. Start loud and big and keep it up. Thus, the themes are not complicated, but easily accessible. What I liked about The Greatest Showman was how we were able to meet and quickly recognize so many characters. True they weren’t nuanced or fleshed out, but at 105 minutes we were introduced to a cast of characters that I could identify with. From the retinue of freaks to the beautiful Jenny Lind, to Barnum’s wife played by Michelle Williams.
That’s quite a range.
But the freaks (sorry, their word not mine, but hang in there, this makes sense): the bearded lady, tall, fat, short man etc felt contemporary. These are the ones society marginalizes, who are taking their cases before the Supreme Court and asking to be recognized. Not assimilated or ignored. They know they’re different, but in a great number, “This is Me” we find unity within diversity. The sense that we all have something “wrong” with us, something that made us feel different or stand out, a reason to not be accepted. We’re not ashamed. Instead of alienating, the circus audience cheers. Just like we in our seats sang along. I was moved by the passion and power of “This is Me.”
Freak doesn’t mean fake. Kevin Young in his book Bunk seems to be making a case for authenticity. I agree. It’s just who gets to judge. Obviously there is truth and historical fact, but as we all know there are many tellings of battles. In his book he gives us his version.
The song “Never Enough” lifted me out of my seat. I’ve been replaying it on my computer since I’ve gotten home. Love, love it, Yet with all the talk of humbug, I was saddened to find that the voice of Loren Allred was dubbed in for Rebecca Ferguson. It’s the song Jenny Lind a shy Swedish singer appears on stage to perform. A sensation from Europe, so we wait, wondering if we’ll be under or overwhelmed. Will she live up to the hype? Oh boy when she opens up, she is the Swedish Nightingale.
This is movies. This is entertainment. We want to be deceived, taken for a ride, we want to be WOWED. The Greatest Showman doesn’t disappoint. It’s church, y’all.