The Greatest Showman

From the brilliantly edited opening credits, I knew I would love this show about show business. By the time we are ten minutes into the film, we are already into the second song. The gorgeous production design leaps off the screen and I knew this would be Entertainment, not Art.

Director Michael Gracey, completing his debut film (courtesy of Hugh Jackman) is working from a script by veterans Jenny Bicks ("Rio 2") and Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls" and "Chicago"). They sweep us into 1826 Bethel, Connecticut, where we watch a boy help his father, a tailor, measure a client in the man's home. The boy makes the client's little girl giggle, which earns him a slap in the face. The die is cast.

Part of Gracey's huge cast:
  • Hugh Jackman ("Les Miserables") Phineas T. Barnum is willing to try anything to make a buck, and yes, his scruples are a bit fuzzy. He works for a shipping company until it goes broke but he's always full of ideas and understands the value of advertising.
  • Michelle Williams ("Certain Women") Charity Barnum has been in love with Phineas most of her life. He's counting on it!
  • Zac Efron ("Baywatch") Carlyle is the privileged fellow Barnum persuades to run away and join a circus. My own observation, we never saw a character named Bailey. I suspect Carlyle is a blend of characters but I like his story.
  • Zendaya ("K.C. Undercover") Anne Wheeler is the trapeze artist who makes Carlyle's heart soar. A professional dancer, Zendaya had to build her upper-body strength for this role; you will see why.
  • Keala Settle ("Rikki and the Flash") The Bearded Woman has one of the showcase songs and absolutely knocks it out of the park (tent?).
  • Rebecca Ferguson ("Mission Impossible") Jenny Lind is the operatic toast of Europe. Now, with P.T. Barnum's knack for publicity, The Swedish Nightingale has a chance to conquer America. (I wish she had sung an aria.)
As we watch the ups and downs of Barnum's life, we also get to admire the brilliant production design and casting. This is a finely tuned machine: Watch Ashley Wallen's clever choreography as Efron and Jackman use glasses and a bottle. See Efron and Zendaya work with a trapeze hoop in their duet. Admire the beautiful silhouettes as they dance through several scenes.

Rated PG, expect singing, dancing, beautiful scenery, a minor dust-up with some town thugs, a spectacular fire, and a panoply of color, but let me add: a much needed requirement for closed captions. I'll get the DVD.
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See what I mean:
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