In 1841 P.T. Barnum premiered Barnum’s American Museum in New York City, which ultimately led to the founding and establishment of Barnum and Bailey Circus. It also installed Barnum as The Greatest Showman which serves as the title for Michael Gracey’s historical musical starring Hugh Jackman.
What should be clear is that The Greatest Showman is not a biopic. While even a small amount of research will reveal that Gracey’s take on Barnum is a substantially loose interpretation of the man’s life he still delivers a well-meaning and entertaining film. In essence, the narrative of The Greatest Showman tells the rags-to-riches story of Barnum but very much speaks to social issues such as discrimination and diversity still prevalent in today’s society.
While the storyline is a bit light the film isn’t overly dependent on it for its survival. Instead, a talented and charismatic cast beautifully delivers the terrific soundtrack. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s original songs are the undoubted gems of this film several memorable anthems such as This Is Me performed by Broadway’s Keala Settle as the Bearded Lady. Visually, it’s a visual pleasure too as colourful costumes, spectacular set pieces, and a wonderfully cast group of actors combine to belt out the soundtrack complete with smart choreography.
The dashing Hugh Jackman at the helm was a no-brainer given his well-known stage acting and vocal prowess. It’s evident throughout the film that Jackman has put his heart and soul into the performance so much so that he should be a lock for the Golden Globe nomination he’s already picked up for this performance. As the consummate professional Jackman’s passion for the project leaps off the screen and he really should be compelled to make at least one musical a year.
It might not be the greatest musical you’re ever going to see but The Greatest Showman is enjoyable and uplifting toe-tapper with an indelible message that celebrates the diversity of humanity.