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Cinema Cindy Reviews ‘The Greatest Showman’

on December 28, 2017 - 8:34am
By CYNTHIA BIDDLECOMB
Los Alamos
 
“The Greatest Showman” is a modern musical about Phineas Taylor Barnum, portrayed here as a poverty-stricken tailor’s son whose imagination brought joy to millions of people. Barnum’s schemes eventually fall into the right combination, providing fascination and entertainment. This success leads to the establishment of his circus troupe in the mid to late 1800s. 
 
The film is an uplifting musical, replete with costuming and sets from a colorful period in our history. The songs of this musical treat are robust, popular-style tunes from Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, two of the three Best Song Oscar winners last year for “City of Stars” (from the film La La Land). Hugh Jackman, who plays Barnum, solos on at least four songs; “The Greatest Show”, his opening song, is already trending on Spotify.
 
He also sings “The Other Side” with Zac Efron, and “From Now On” with the whole cast, while Michelle Williams, who plays Charity Barnum, P.T’s wife, sings “Tightrope” naming the tensest moment in the story. Especially moving is the song "This Is Me", featuring Keala Settle with help from the cast.
 
Among the “freaks”, as Barnum called them—all of whom he cajoled out of hiding to flaunt themselves in his circus—are the Bearded Lady Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle), General Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey), Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) and W.D. Wheeler (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a brother and sister team of trapeze artists. Behind these featured characters are the Siamese Twins, the Strong Man, Dog Boy, and Human Cannonball. Lettie sings their song of liberation, “This is Me”, all of them coming out of the shadows to live life to its fullest, no longer hiding.
 
Barnum is financially successful with his performing “oddities”, but is offended when entertainment critic, James Gordon Bennett (Paul Sparks), questions Barnum’s sense of good taste in promoting experiences that shock and amaze the masses. In a bid for respectability, P.T. Barnum convinces European sensation, Jenny “The Swedish Nightingale” Lind, played by Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train), to let him promote her in an American tour. Lind has never been to the U.S. and Barnum has never heard her sing! Yet, on the first night of that concert tour, he finds her reputation as the greatest singer in the world is hardly overstated. Her tour takes the country by storm, establishing Barnum as an American tastemaker.
 
The Greatest Showman may be light on story and only an hour and forty-five minutes long, but does succeed at providing entertainment and a bit of history. We learn something about this famous man and his inimitable spirit. Style-wise, the movie might remind one of the great movie musicals of the 1960s—just good family fun. In fact, it is “Rated PG for thematic elements including a brawl.” So take the kids and take grandma. You’ll all have a great time.

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