Review: Hugh Jackman is magic as The Greatest Showman
Tumbling acrobats flying through the air, large animals from far off lands and a spectacle of vibrancy and colour, that’s what we see when we think of the circus. Hitting cinemas this Christmas, The Greatest Showman delves into the true story of the creation of circus as an artform.
The smash-hit film tells the story of the founder of the world’s greatest circus through epic ballads and powerful theatrical numbers starring Hollywood legends Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams and Zac Efron.
PT Barnum was an American showman who created Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum which then sparked the idea of a circus production where he gathered a group of ‘freaks’ and people who were different in a multitude of ways and created an extravaganza. Whilst not completely historically correct, it is inspired by the imagination of Barnum and celebrates the creation of show business.
Hugh Jackman’s musical talents aren’t a secret, and he steps into the role of PT Barnum with ease as he captures the charisma and sincerity of the young man with big dreams. Jackman has all the ingredients of a showman with both his dashing looks and personality. Barnum is a bold character that stops at nothing to achieve his dream, yet is entirely likeable and Hugh portrays this superbly. Meeting his wife Charity at a young age, Michelle Williams who plays the love of his life, grows up with him and gets caught up in his dreams. Williams is sweet, and although it isn’t a meaty role she brings potent emotion to the moment in which their marriage is falling apart.
Presented as a musical, the film has some strong musical numbers that are amplified by slick choreography and punchy orchestration. Acclaimed duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who wrote the lyrics for hit film La La Land and Broadway sensation Dear Evan Hansen have created some epic numbers that soundtrack the rollercoaster of emotions covered in the film. The power ballads are both empowering and uplifting, particularly the huge numbers sang by the group of circus performers. Broadway star Keala Settle stands up for the ‘rejects’ as the bearded lady with stellar vocals. Her passion and determination are phenomenal and her huge number This Is Me is charged with strength.
The music partners well with the story, however, it does feel sparse and a few more musical numbers would make it feel like an entire musical movie. High School Musical star Zac Efron returns to his singing roots in the film as he plays the role of a tired producer with a lot of money in the bank but a lack of inspiration. Efron’s relationship with Jackman in the film drives the story as they support each other through the tough ups and downs.
First-time director Michael Gracey has created a visually stunning film as the time-period and New York setting fit together to create really engaging scenes. Although the plot is predictable, the mixture of huge theatrical show tunes and a story about a man who came from nothing and followed his dreams is a recipe for success. It’s a feel-good spectacular that will leave you punching the air and believing you can do just about anything.