THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is a musical that tells the story of how the ambitious P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) created the Barnum & Bailey Circus. As Barnum works against all odds to get his circus off the ground, he teams up with Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) to help his show appeal to the upper class. The film certainly takes some creative liberties with the actual story, but I didn’t have any problems with that. It’s a musical – creative liberties are expected. But with an incredibly talented cast and a dynamite soundtrack, it’s easy to get swept away in the wonder on display in this film.
Hugh Jackman is absolutely electric as P.T. Barnum. Not only is his acting the highlight of the film, but he’s completely enthralling whenever he sings and dances on the screen. Barnum’s relationship with his wife, Charity (Michelle Williams), is a big part of this film and both actors really make the relationship feel real. Whereas Barnum is the dreamer, Charity is the grounded realist. She is Barnum’s rock, and Michelle Williams radiates compassion and love when her character is onscreen.
Zac Efron is equally wonderful in the film as Phillip Carlyle. He’s an exquisite singer and dancer, and it’s a real delight to watch him in his element. In the film, Carlyle falls for Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), an acrobat in Barnum’s circus, and comes to term with the fact that a relationship with someone of a different race and considered lower class will negatively impact his social standing. Like Barnum, Carlyle must learn how to accept himself and what his heart wants, rather than play along to what society deems appropriate. The chemistry between Efron and Zendaya is great, and the two practically leap off the screen when they sing and dance together.
The music in THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is just perfect. It is filled with toe-tapping anthems about dreams and embracing oneself, and it’s also filled with beautiful love songs that will bring tears to the eye. Of course, the music would be nothing without the incredible choreography that accompanies the songs. The dance numbers don’t exist simply to accompany the songs – they tell a story. The musical numbers fit the film like a glove, and they serve to further drive home the film’s theme of acceptance. THE GREATEST SHOWMAN isn’t simply about learning to accept those who are different from us – it’s about learning how to accept who we are in spite of what society demands of us.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is, simply put, a wonderful experience. It’s not simply the sublime music and the excellent acting. What makes this film so special is how electric it is. The music is so infectious that I was completely swept up in it by the end of the opening number. The film’s overarching theme of accepting oneself is incredibly powerful, and it is prominently on display throughout the film. THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is a beautiful, mesmerizing film, and well worth the experience.