“No ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”
—Hugh Jackman’s PT Barnum
Keep in mind that last year’s holiday movie offering, “The Greatest Showman” is by no means a biopic. Forget any attempt to come close to the life of the real PT Barnum or to ask thought provoking questions about his integrity as a businessman or entertainment mogul (i.e. was he exploitative?).
The best way to enjoy this is to view it as entertainment unapologetically focusing on whatever positive qualities Barnum might have had, knowing the producers and director sprinkled a ton of Hollywood fairy dust on it. The rose colored glasses are definitely put on for you. I am reminded of the Irish saying: “Never let the truth get in the way of telling a good story.”
The Greatest Showman, directed by first time director Michael Gracey stars one of our generation’s greatest showmen as well—actor, performer, host, singer, dancer and film producer, “The Wolverine,” Hugh Jackman. The movie uses song and dance to tell their version of the “Barnum” story, of his tenacity, audacity and magnetism. As Jackman admiringly put it, “He knew how to make something out of nothing, how to turn lemons into lemonade.”
The original songs were written by the team of BenjPasek and Justin Paul who have an Oscar and Tony for their work on “La La Land” and “Dear Evan Hansen” respectively. The stand out song “This Is Me,” performed by the amazing Keala Settle, won at the recent Golden Globes. There are likewise some genuinely moving performances you find of it on line—like the one where Keala is in front of a huge, live Christmas audience and singing with the Melbourne Gospel choir. There’s another one where she’s debuted “This Is Me” with Darren Criss at Elsie Fest in Central Park.
Pasek says, “We realized we needed the raw power of a really, really intense female voice to express the importance of learning to love yourself, to empower yourself, even when the whole world tells you that you don’t deserve to be loved.”
Another highlight is the song number, “The Other Side” featuring Barnum and fictitious partner Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) at a bar where they’re trying seal the terms of a deal with each other.
After I watched this, I kept thinking, Hugh Jackman needs another Broadway show. I checked IMDb only to found out, one of his upcoming films is called “Broadway 4D”—oh, and with Lea Salonga.
The Greatest Showman opens nationwide on January 31.