I wouldn’t exactly call “The Greatest Showman” a landmark musical in the tradition of “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Sound of Music,” or “La La Land,” but it is solid holiday entertainment.
It’s a musical about how Phineas Taylor Barnum, better known as P.T. Barnum, started the famous circus Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus. I may have been to a show once (“may have” are the operative words), but the movie does a fabulous job with costumes, decor, and music.
Set in the 1800s, Hugh Jackman plays P.T., who comes from a harsh reality, as does his wealthy love Charity (Michelle Williams). He promises her and their two girls a magical life, but to no avail. So, seeing the people who get the short end of the stick (freaks, African-Americans, etc.), he decides to start a circus.
The freaks include two African-American acrobats (Zendaya and Yahza Abdul-Mateen II), a bearded lady (Keala Settle), and a young dwarf, whose stage name is General Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey). And helping him in his show are a young stage actor named Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron-back in business) and the famous opera sing Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson). Of course, as much as the people love the show, there are those who protest against them. But does that stop them? No.
The music was written by Pasek & Paul, the two Oscar-winning lyricists of “La La Land,” and there are some nice songs like “The Greatest Show” and “This is Me.” And the choreography works wonders at the circus and at a bar, where Jackman and Efron perform their number of “The Other Side” with shot glasses.
“The Greatest Showman” isn’t perfect, because of how some songs and decor overshadow some of the characters and writing, making the story seem obvious. But for what it’s worth, it adds a magic touch for the holidays. New-coming director Michael Gracey does a solid job showing us the circus life back then, and you also have some nice work from Jackman, Efron, Williams, Ferguson, Zendaya, Settle, and Humphrey.