Terça-feira, 16/10/2018 | : : UTC-4
The Reflection

The Greatest Showman comes alive on the big screen

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Hugh Jackman took center stage during many energetic group numbers throughout the film. Dressed in his signature raven top hat and crimson jacket, Jackman never failed to stand out in the crowd. Photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.

Hugh Jackman’s passion project, The Greatest Showman, offers a vibrant and captivating, if somewhat unrealistic, retelling of circus king P.T. Barnum’s life. The film is beautifully shot and equipped with lavish costumes and settings, breathtaking music and energetic dance numbers, paired with whimsical romance. The Greatest Showman is a triumph that emphasizes the importance of taking risks and not losing yourself in the process. Movie-goers are sure to leave the theater humming, tapping their feet, as they race off to join the circus.

The Greatest Showman recounts the journey of tailor assistant P.T. Barnum, as he rises from poverty to make a name for himself in the entertainment industry. With his wife Charity and two daughters by his side, Barnum risks everything he has to put on a show like no other, recruiting a courageous set of unusual performers from the fringes of society to take center stage. Throughout the film, these entertainers (including the infamous bearded lady, Tom Thumb, and African-American trapeze artists), who used to be outcasts, learn to emerge from the shadows and display their eccentricities with pride.

“Rewrite the Stars,” a touching duet between P.T. Barnum and his wife Charity paired sweet vocals with emotional dancing. Photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.

However fabulous The Greatest Showman may be, the film lacks historical validity. Despite supposedly being another retelling of P.T. Barnum’s life (of which there have been many), few aspects of the film accurately portray Barnum’s countenance and his path to success. In The Greatest Showman, Barnum is portrayed as a young and charismatic dreamer, eager to champion the masses and preach a message of acceptance. In reality, Barnum has been criticized as a successful but dishonest fraud with questionable morals who makes money off of scamming the public. Additionally, many characters–including Zac Efron’s Phillip Carlyle and Zendaya’s Anne Wheeler–are purely fictional.

In short, The Greatest Showman, like many other films touted as historical (Argo or Pearl Harbor, to name a few) provides a false lense from which to view the past, particularly the life and accomplishments of P.T. Barnum. With that said, because musicals are altogether unrealistic portrayals of human life (after all, we don’t typically participate in random outbursts of song and dance), viewers can let historical inaccuracies slide in order to enjoy the movie.

Historical inaccuracies aside, Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of P.T. Barnum in The Greatest  Showman is charismatic and charming. Jackman portrays Barnum as a man of contrasts; one who rises from his life of poverty into one of prosperity, but never stops feeling like an outsider. It’s also refreshing to see Jackman, whom audiences are used to primarily seeing in action movies, in a more emotionally intimate role.

“The Other Side,” a duet between Hugh Jackman’s P.T. Barnum and Zac Efron’s Philip Carlyle, is one of two musical numbers that take place in a bar. Throughout the song, Barnum convinces Carlyle to join the circus, in exchange for a share of the profits. Photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.

Zac Efron excels in his role as Phillip Carlyle, a famous young playwright from a wealthy family whom Barnum convinces to put his past behind him and join the circus. Efron has proved in previous films that he can sing (he played Troy Bolton in High School Musical and Link Larkin in Hairspray, after all), but he proves his versatility and depth as an actor in The Greatest Showman.

Keala Settle also provides an enlightening and inspiring portrayal of the bearded lady, who progresses from a timid outcast, embarrassed of what she looks like, to an outspoken and unashamed leading lady who stuns circus-goers with her uncommon appearance and soulful singing voice.

From start to finish, The Greatest Showman is filled with memorable music and lively choreography. Some songs, such as “The Greatest Show” and “Come Alive,” are exciting and brimming with adrenaline. “The Other Side,” a duet between Jackman and Efron, is humorous and catchy ― it’s my personal favorite. “A Million Dreams” and “Never Enough” are romantic and chilling. Choreography includes energetic group numbers and passionate partner performances. Costumes and sets are just as richly beautiful as the musical numbers that take center stage.

The Greatest Showman shines in every possible aspect. It provides a touching story that, when told by excellent actors and scored by beautiful music, accurately portrays the struggles (and dreams) we encounter throughout our lives. Theatre lovers and musical skeptics alike will be able to relate to characters in the film and might even leave the theatre with a newfound pride in who they are.


Annie Thorn
About

This is my first year on staff at the Reflection. I enjoy running track and cross country. I also spend a lot of time volunteering at Gracespring and the Richland Community Library. After I graduate this year, I hope to go to college and pursue a career in public history.

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