By: Lisa Green ’20
When a friend invited me along to see The Greatest Showman, the latest Pasek and Paul musical which has been panned by many critics, I was hopeful, but I wasn’t expecting much. However, after watching the first three minutes, which were entertaining, clever and intriguing, I knew I would walk out of the theater with an unforeseen opinion.
The Greatest Showman is a semi-fictionalized version of the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, the man who founded the very famous Barnum and Bailey Circus. The film delves into perspectives one wouldn’t expect from the trailer. For example, it portrays Barnum’s wife, Charity, who leaves her family behind to help her husband pursue his dreams. We also meet Phillip Carlyle, a wealthy socialite-turned successful ringleader, as well as Lettie Lutz, an incredible vocalist and bearded woman who has been persecuted and mercilessly teased throughout her life, but is finally given a chance to perform.
The movie starts out with a sequence presenting Barnum as an abused child who was consistently yelled at and made to feel like he would never amount to anything, ultimately making him relate to all other outcasts. It perfectly sets up the story as one of redemption for members of society who were never given a chance solely based on where or how they were born.
As for the music, Pasek and Paul never dissapoint. The first song, A Million Dreams, is one I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I heard it. The melody is of course, beautifully catchy, as is every song, but what truly sets this tune apart is the message that if you set your mind to something and pursue it at every opportunity, you can make even your wildest dreams come true, despite your background or the obstacles in your way.
The next standout, The Other Side, is a simple song during which Barnum is trying to convince Carlyle to be his financial partner in the circus. In a short three minutes, it is able to set up not only Carlyle’s character, motives, and background, but also show the audience how much Barnum is still considered an outsider in New York society. This moment makes the upper class’s eventual begrudging appreciation for Barnum and his performances even more impactful.
Finally, there is no way to review this movie and not mention the powerhouse, Golden Globe winning, fan-favorite, This Is Me. It demonstrates the perseverance of Lettie and the other “Oddities” who join her. Despite the “Oddities’” immense contribution to the circus, they are excluded from the afterparty, and when this occurs, they do not shy away from confrontation. Instead, they belt this incredible show stopper and stun every upper class society member in their path. The exquisite performance and incredible declaration of wanting to be accepted despite one’s flaws, combine with the unforgettable, mesmerizing accompanying music.
If you are craving a ninety-minute long escapist, fantastic storytelling event set to memorable music that only gets better with every listen, this is without a doubt the movie for you.