Last week, I finally had the pleasure of watching The Greatest Showman. It had been a long time coming—I’d been planning to watch it on the plane to Portland last month, and it was available, but to my chagrin Alaska Airlines is too technologically advanced for my electronic devices and I wasn’t able to watch it. Then finally, we rented it on Amazon Prime. And let me tell you, it surpassed my incredibly high expectations. If you haven’t seen this movie, please go find it right now. It’s amazing.
The Greatest Showman is a movie musical based on the life of P.T. Barnum and his founding of the circus in 1850. Barnum is played by Hugh Jackman, who is just a delight. He looks like he’s having so much fun, which is one of the reasons the movie is so great. Everyone in it looks like they are having a blast, and when it comes to musicals, that can take one from good to great. Zac Efron is also here, returning to his musical roots. People don’t talk enough about Zac Efron’s turn as Link in the 2007 movie version of Hairspray. He’s so good in that, so committed, and he does the same thing here. There’s one song, called “The Other Side,” that’s sung by Jackman and Efron and features so many of my favorite musical tropes. First, the song itself is a conversation between the two men, so the words change slightly depending on who is singing but the melody doesn’t change. Second, the song is set in a bar, so they are taking shots throughout the whole thing, and you better believe they are banging the glasses and bottles down and sliding them across the bar as part of the beat of the song. Third, the dancing is great, they are jumping from stools and chairs up to the bar and back down again. I couldn’t stop smiling.
Speaking of the dancing, the style is really unique and a lot of fun. As someone who grew up as a dancer but not a singer, I love shows and movies that prioritize dancing skills. Everyone in this movie was also an incredible singer, but it made me happy that the dancing was showcased so beautifully.
The music. Ahh, the music. I had listened to the soundtrack once or twice before watching the movie, so I knew the music was fantastic. But I had no idea until I watched the scenes that accompanied them how incredible it was. The actors in this movie are having a blast because the songs they are singing, with the exception of a couple, are so joyful, uplifting and inspiring. “This is Me” is an anthem of inner strength and freedom to be yourself. “A Million Dreams” is a promise that anyone can build the life they want for themselves. “Rewrite the Stars” is a ballad about challenging the status quo and not being afraid to love you who want to love. All the music is beautifully performed and beautifully written. The soundtrack was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, songwriters known for two little musicals called La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen. Their lyrics are just outstanding.
If you search for The Greatest Showman on YouTube, you’ll find a bunch of videos of the cast singing the songs in their initial pitch meeting. Apparently, Hugh Jackman had a medical procedure the day before the meeting and wasn’t supposed to sing. So they brought someone else in to sing for him, and he mouthed along to all the songs. Except when they got to the last song, “From Now On,” which he sings primarily, he couldn’t take it anymore and he started belting out the lyrics, doctors be damned. That’s the passion that everyone in it brings to this movie, and you feel it in every scene.
If you need to smile, watch this movie. If you need an emotional release, watch this movie. If you love musical theater, watch this movie. If you love Hugh Jackman, watch this movie. I mean, just go watch the movie already, will you?!