By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Hurry, hurry and step right up to see “The Greatest Showman.”
This is a dazzling, music/biopic from first-time director Michael Gracey and screenwriters Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”) and Jenny Bicks (TV’s “The Big C”).
Gracey has put his visual effects experience to such good use here, creating eye-popping dance numbers that will leave you almost breathless.
Hugh Jackman is superb and sells this show with every bit of gusto in him as the ambitious entrepreneur Phineas Taylor Barnum (P.T. Barnum) who founded “The Greatest Show on Earth,” aka the famous traveling Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus.
P.T. grew up dirt poor and knew early that he didn’t want to remain that way. He charmed his way into the heart of the love of his life, Charity (Michelle Williams, “All the Money in the World”) who was from a wealthy family.
Naturally, Charity’s parents looked down on P.T. and didn’t understand why their daughter would associate with such a low life.
But P.T. had more than charm going for him. He was a dreamer and a real go-getter. He promised his future wife that he’d give her the best life imaginable. However, it came with a steep price.
After the company P.T. worked for closed, it left him, Charity and their two young daughters with little money and no sign of any coming in from anywhere.
Maybe Charity’s father was right. He’d be back begging for help.
Not a chance.
P.T. risks everything and takes out a $10,000 loan—lying to the bank about his collateral—and buys a museum filling it with odds and ends.
It was a unique place and as much as P.T. and the family promoted it, few people were interested in it. It took his daughter to tell him that the place needed something showy, something lively and something different.
She was right. P.T. needed something flashy, something big and strange. When P.T. meets the tiny 22-year-old Charles Stratton (Sam Humphrey, TV’s “Neighbours”), a dwarf performer who is known by his stage name of General Tom Thumb, it clicks that he would pack the place. Except Tom is concerned that he would be laughed at, P.T. tells him so what. Since people are laughing at him now why not get paid for it.
Tom finally agrees and he becomes the first piece of P.T. Barnum’s cast of many characters.
Others soon want a piece of the action too like Lettie Lutz, a.k.a. “The Bearded Woman” (Keala Settle, “Ricki and the Flash”) and a trapeze artist named Anne Wheeler (Oakland’s Zendaya, TV’s K.C. Undercover”) who is multi-talented and can sing her tail off.
Zendaya is the reason why wealthy playwright Phillip Carlyle (a terrific Zac Efron, “The Disaster Artist”) agrees to become Barnum's partner.
It’s really love at first sight for both of them although they have to keep their interracial affair at bay. P.T. really wants Phillip to work with him because he’s such a mover and shaker among the rich and powerful and he’d like to tap into that inner-circle and grow his business beyond the common folk.
It’s too bad that P.T. can’t get a break from the local newspaper theatre critic James Gordon Bennett (Paul Sparks, TV’s “The Crown”). He seems to despise every move P.T. makes.
Although that changes when P.T. decides to up his entertainment game and bring in the international opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson, “The Snowman”).
P.T. promises to make Jenny a star in America and the world. Of course he really wants to class up his show and uses her for that means too, but they head out on tour and become big hits.
Meanwhile, Phillip and the rest of the entertainers are beginning to feel left out and worst of all, Charity is alone raising the kids by herself.
Remember, success often comes with a price.
P.T. pays dearly for his lofty ambitions which nearly destroy his marriage. And when a disaster strikes the museum, it changes everything and makes him realize what’s valuable and important in life.
There are so many jaw-dropping musical numbers throughout “The Greatest Showman,” that you’ll want this soundtrack although chances are you’ll have a hard time getting them out of your head especially the songs, “The Greatest Show” performed by Jackman, Settle, Efron and Zendaya, the phenomenal “The Other Side” (Jackman and Efron), “Come Alive” (Jackman, Settle, Daniel Everidge and Zendaya) and the statement pleasing, “This Is Me” (Settle).
Prepare to be dazzled and wowed by “The Greatest Showman.” It’s really great.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:40 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Look At This Trailer For "THE GREATEST SHOWMAN"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.