Rocking the Big Top with The Greatest Showman

When I was younger I remember when my parents would take me and my sisters to the circus. I remember sitting in the seats with my family and just watching with amazement as the lions jumped through hoops, the trapeze artists flew through the air, and the clowns made the crowd laugh.

As I grew older my family did not go to the circus as much and it slowly faded out of our lives. Fast forward to a week and a half ago when I walked out of the theater with my children and wishing that I took them to the circus before they closed up.

Yes, my friends, watching The Greatest Showman, left me walking out the theater missing the circus, but it also left me feeling full of life and happiness.

Hugh Jackman plays the infamous P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman and while this is not a direct biography on the man, it is a great story about how he came from nothing and was still determined to follow his dreams. P.T. has big aspirations and at times risked everything that he had to make his dreams a reality. In the beginning of the movie, we see a young P.T. waiting for his father outside a men’s clothing shop with tattered shoes and admiring the suits.

Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

As a child, we see how he helped his father, who was a tailor and still dreamed of a better life. While helping his father we are introduced to the young girl that he fancies. The young girl, Charity, is being groomed to be a perfect lady and P.T. makes her laugh during her daily lesson one day. This one little act gets him in trouble and shows the audience how the upper class treats the working class. We next get a montage of him working his way up from squalor and making something decent of himself in order to ask for the hand of Charity. While not agreeing with it her father lets her go, but not before saying “She’ll be back.”

The subject of class is also bought up later in the movie by the relationship between Phillip Carlyle and Anne Wheeler, respectfully played by Zac Efron and Zendaya. Phillip is a playwright who comes from an affluent white family while Anne is a young African-American woman who is a trapeze artist in Barnum’s circus. The chemistry between the two is pretty strong, but because of their status in society, the two cannot act on their love.

This leads to the fantastic song “Rewrite the Stars” where the two sing about the different views they have about being together. While he thinks it will be easy for them to be together, she mentions the reality of the world that they live in will not let it happen. “You think it’s easy. You think I don’t want to run to you, But there are mountains, And there are doors that we can’t walk through.” The lyrics in this song and this scene is so strong that it was hard for me to keep a dry eye as they sang this song.

The music in this movie is catchy and will probably make you tap your feet to the beat as you sit in your seat (I didn’t mean for that to rhyme). As stated in all the marketing, the music comes from the same Oscar award-winning lyricists, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the songs for La La Land. As soon as the movie begins, and you hear Hugh Jackman recite the words, “Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for!” and see the choreography of those seated around him, you know you are about to witness something special.

Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

This opening number sets the stage for all the songs that you are going to hear and just like in La La Land, the performers make it all look effortless. The choreography during the song “The Other Side” show Jackman and Efron exchanging verses while dancing around in a bar and taking shots, literally. Think of “Cups” from Pitch Perfect, but with shot glasses.

One of the breakout songs from the movie is “This is Me” sung by the incredible Keala Settle. After its Golden Globe nomination, you will hear a lot about this song. The song exemplifies the challenges that the circus performers face every day. You see this in the first moment that the audience is introduced to the performers inside of Barnum’s museum. The people have looks of fear on their faces, but once they start performing the looks dissipate into ones of joy and laughter. Music is the great unifier in this movie.

Another odd reason that I really enjoyed this movie was the parallel to my own life. While I am not running a circus, like P.T. Barnum, I took a leap of faith in starting this blog with my friend Gil. There are moments in the film where I heard lines that mimicked my own life. In one moment of the film, P.T. tells his wife that he’s sorry he can’t give her the life that he promised her, and she replies that she has everything that she needs and looks over to her children. 
While my own life has gone through many ups-and-downs, my wife and children have always stood by my side and support the crazy ideas that I have. This movie is a great reassurance that no matter how bad things can get, if you stay true to your dreams, one day they will become a reality. 

Final Thoughts: The holiday season is the time that studios put out their family movies and this movie is a great experience. P.T Barnum’s circus is a greater than life show in real life and this movie captures some of that grandiose feeling through its visuals and songs.

Kid Friendly: The music alone will capture your children’s attention and probably have them dancing in the aisles. There is a scene where a racist remark is said about one of the performers that might have your child questioning its meaning.

Violence: As for violence in the movie there is a fight scene that leads to a bigger event, which we won’t spoil. While the fight is not glorified, it does show the hatred of people who are uncomfortable with those that are different from them.

Fandads Rating: 5 out of 5

Purchase your tickets for The Greatest Showman today!

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