It truly is ‘The Greatest Show’



Visit the official website for more information about the movie.

Lights dim as I wiggle in my seat. Candy wrappers crinkle open, and drinks swish as excited movie watchers slurped them up. A loud drum rumbles through the theater silencing all the whispers. Quiet takes over the room for only a moment before bombastic voices followed by two even louder drum beats cloud the area. From this moment on, no one in the audience dares to make a noise to distract from this show, for it truly is the greatest show.

Filled with an all-star cast of Hugh Jackman as P. T. Barnum, Michelle Williams as Charity Barnum, Zendaya as Anne Wheeler, Zac Efron as Phillip Carlyle and Rebecca Ferguson as Jenny Lind and featuring stunning trailers leading up to its release Dec. 20, “The Greatest Showman” spent one hour and 45 minutes stealing my breath with the colorful costumes, shining lights and astounding performances which made P. T. Barnum’s circus a wonder to see. By Jan. 7, the movie had grossed $150.4 million worldwide.

When the glitter fades, a tale of a man who wishes to give his family a life of extravagance lies in the heart of this show.”

— Katelyn Spivey, 11

At its simplest, “The Greatest Showman” is the celebration of the beginning of the circus. Although it dazzles with spectacular music and dances, the true magnificence of this movie is how it does not fail to make the stories of life and love shine through the glitz and glam of show business. When the glitter fades, a tale of a man who wishes to give his family a life of extravagance lies in the heart of this show. He faces adversity–no movie can survive without it–as the people of New York grow tired of and angry with the human “oddities.”

A movie of such whimsy and detail demands a cast which can bring life to the characters. One reason “The Greatest Showman” is thriving in theaters is because the actors and actresses not only bring depth as well as life to characters, but they also become the characters and take on their controversy as their own.

Efron started his career in 2002, but has not performed in a musical since filming “High School Musical 3: Senior Year.” He took the role to help address the pressures of interracial couples, an issue he has discussed in television interviews. In the show, he is constantly fighting to be with the girl he believes he is meant to be with because she does not want the hardship which would accompany their relationship.

The actors and actresses of “The Greatest Showman” have set a new standard for what is expected of leads in a musical.”

— Katelyn Spivey, 11

Efron fit the look of his character: a young, handsome, wealthy and smart man living among New York City socialites. Since he perfectly looked the part, I did not expect much from his acting, although I haven’t watched his movies since he starred in the “High School Musical” movies, so the only acting comparisons I can make would be in regard to them. His skills have broadened and grown immensely since then. He fit the mold of the character, but broke it by adding more than one side to the character. Instead of being told why he joined Barnum, viewers can see it.

Jackman’s performance was nothing less than perfection. Although mostly known for the X-Men movies, Jackman started his career on Broadway. He has dabbled in a few comedic films, but “The Greatest Showman” is nothing like anything in which he has ever been featured. It is flashy and lively, proving Jackman is a versatile actor. Instead of trying to become who Barnum was in real life, Jackman captured the spirit of the circus show Barnum created.

The actors and actresses of “The Greatest Showman” have set a new standard for what is expected of leads in a musical. The singing and acting were equally strong. Subtle changes in body language such as the release of a deep breath or the change of the look in the eyes shows the subtext so clearly, the audience could have been reading it.

As each song finished, I wanted to hear it played over and over again.”

— Katelyn Spivey, 11

As can be expected, the script shared few accurate details with its real life events. Even parts which seem true are either completely incorrect or stretched to be made interesting. Both Zendaya and Efron’s characters were created so a budding romance could happen. Some transitions felt choppy, as if the writers believed audiences would immediately jump to a specific conclusion which made the transition make sense. Sadly, minds are unpredictable, and the lines relied too heavily on the music to carry it into the next moments. 

Although the dialogue could not always stand alone, the music could. Since the events of the movie occur in the 1880s, music was expected to be classical or traditional. Instead, it creates another layer to this impressive masterpiece. The songs cannot fit into any one category but are a mix of contemporary, hip-hop and pop. As each song finished, I wanted to hear it played over and over again because of the lovely melodies and poetic lyrics. In fact, the moment I stepped out of the theater, I bought the soundtrack because of how emotionally moving it is.

Combined with Allred’s powerful voice, Ferguson’s stellar performance creates a character with talent and charisma.”

— Katelyn Spivey, 11

The break between the old setting and the upbeat music did create small inconsistencies throughout the show, especially after Jenny Lind is introduced. Described as the most famous opera singer in Europe, I expected her to sing a classical song which had been revamped to fit into the contemporary soundtrack. Instead, she sang “Never Enough,” which could be heard on the radio today. Knowing Lind is classified as an operatic singer, the song felt mildly out of place, but the fantastic vocals made all dislike fade away.

Although Ferguson portrayed Lind, known as the “Swedish Nightingale,” the actress did not provide the vocals for the soundtrack or movie. Ferguson did attend Adolf Fredrik’s Music School in Stockholm, and worked with a vocal coach to be able to perform the song on film, but the actual voice heard is Loren Allred’s. Allred, a talented vocalist, is best known for being part of the final of season three of “The Voice.” Combined with Allred’s powerful vocals, Ferguson’s stellar performance creates a character with talent and charisma.

Several of the soundtrack’s songs standout among the rest, but none so much as “The Greatest Show.” The first song of the show, it perfectly encompasses the dream like, magical essence of what the circus is meant to be. It is essentially each character’s happiest place. The circus performers are in a place where they are accepted and loved by crowds and one another, and Barnum uses his imagination to create the world he has always envisioned. The song fades into Barnum’s life as a boy and is not heard again until the end of the show where it picks up again at the second verse. This time, Barnum is with his family, because he realized his love for them spawned his show and is what really matters.

His actions create a family among the performers who find the home they never had within each other.”

— Katelyn Spivey, 11

“This is Me” has become the movie’s anthem as well as a song to which those who feels odd or like an outcast can relate. The attractions of Barnum’s American Museum sing of how they are accustomed to people pushing them into the dark and are now unafraid to be seen despite being “bruised,” because that is who they are meant to be. It even won Best Original Song at the Golden Globe Awards Jan. 7.

The song also ties into the show’s underlying message of acceptance. In the movie, Barnum put people of all colors, shapes and sizes in his circus, knowing some people would always respond negatively. His actions create a family among the performers who find the home they never had within each other.

However quirky, whimsical, mesmerizing and unrealistic “The Greatest Showman” is, it shines a spotlight on unconditional love without conditions or boundaries. “The Greatest Showman” is an astounding piece of art filled with its fair share of mistakes but even more magical moments. Although the true show, which transformed into the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, closed its tent flaps in 2017, its oddities, curiosities and fascinating illusions will forever inspire audiences and continue to bring them childlike joy through “The Greatest Showman” long after they leave the theater.