I cannot stop talking about this movie ever since I saw it on Christmas Day (which I think was its first day in Australia). It’s all over my social media accounts; I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it to every single person I met up with in the last couple of days. I bought the soundtrack right away and had been singing the songs nonstop. I’m mad about it basically.
So here’s a few random thoughts I have about the film, its music and whatever else in it, which I will deliver not really as a movie critic, but as a music lover, a musical theatre freak, and a Pasek-and-Paul fan. Also, I did 17 because, well, we’re in year 2017, and it’s almost over (?). Anyway, I don’t know how this is gonna go, but let’s start it off.
- The film was simply fantastic. The overall production was highly entertaining and absolutely delightful. Ace direction by Michael Gracey. Marvellous performances delivered by the stellar cast headed by the incomparable Hugh Jackman. To be honest, I don’t have to say much about Jackman; he was plain astounding.
- Apparently, it’s a musical biopic about the life of P. T. Barnum, founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus. I think it’s the kind of production that highlights the artistic and performance aspects more than the history. So, I guess you can ignore the spectators who doubt its historical accuracy and truthfulness.
- More than anything, the music had really stood out for me. It was just remarkable. I have to admit I did have high expectations when I learned that it was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and they have exceeded all of them!
- As each song was introduced in the progression of the film, I was taken aback—struggling to breathe and recover from each one. And I am not even exaggerating. I was deeply moved. I kept telling myself, “Woah, this is too much to take!”
- The colourful melodies, the enthralling harmonies, the impeccably written lyrics wrapped in strong, catchy hooks and appealing phrases, and the exhilarating musical arrangements; not to mention the riveting choreography, vivid set and costumes, and excellent camera work—it was a huge creative buffet I thought I came ready for (but wasn’t), and still wanted to devour everything anyway!
- The arrangement and dynamics of the music, as well as the language and poetry in the lyrics effectively conveyed the disposition, drama and dilemma of the characters singing the songs. It was powerful and genuine; and it wasn’t hard to empathise with them and understand where they stand.
- Interesting story-telling: I love how they used very modern, contemporary music to tell a story situated in the 19th century. Old-fashioned sight, modern sound. Striking contrast that pretty much worked.
- “A Million Dreams” beautifully set an enchanting atmosphere for the film (although this was actually the second song, it was the first “complete” one as “The Greatest Show” was not shown in full yet) as the young Finn‘s wonder-stricken character was introduced, then gracefully segueing to the entrancing rooftop dance with Charity (Michelle Williams). The song’s reprise sung by their two little girls just melted my heart.
- My favourite scenes were perhaps the major production numbers such as “The Greatest Show”, “Come Alive”, “This is Me”, and “From Now On” that were pillars of the film. The vibe, the cinematography, the synchronicity, the life and energy in each number remained consistent all throughout the film, and had only escalated in the film’s progression. The direction made sure you would anticipate and increasingly enjoy each one.
- Keala Settle is a formidable force of nature—she really stood out from the rest, not just because of character’s stunning beard, but because of her incredible vocal prowess and her fierce, unchallengeable soul.
- We found ourselves an anthem for self-acceptance and self-empowerment in the song “This is Me”. It’s very timely and universal—accepting your imperfections, turning your peculiarity to individuality, and just unapologetically being you in a harshly judgmental world.
- Zac Efron and Zendaya had awesome chemistry while the film compassionately deals with their characters’ romantic predicament (i.e., interracial love affair), all spotlighted in their breathtaking aerial duet in “Rewrite the Stars”. This was just captivating.
- The Jackman-Efron bar duet was pretty intense—from the glass exhibitions, chair slides, deviant camera movements and all. Very well choreographed. One of my favourite moments in the film.
- The two female arias such as “Never Enough” (sung by Michelle Williams playing Charity) and “Tightrope” (sung by the character of Jenny Lind played by Roberta Ferguson, in the singing voice of Loren Allred) were both phenomenal and gave the two female characters their soul-baring moments.
- Back to the music, Pasek and Paul have the unique ability to combine a variety of genres and styles and turn them into a delectably cohesive body of work. The soundtrack was incredibly eclectic, and harnesses a diverse range of rhythms and feels—pop, rock, folk, ballad, soul, and some gospel. Any person would have at least one or two favourites from the list.
- I also realise how Pasek and Paul particularly fuse contemporary music and musical theatre, in terms of musicality and overall approach/atttitude—so brilliantly that it engenders a whole different sound. Musically, you get a tasteful integration of band and orchestral music, often with a soulful flare. I feel like they’ve also done this approach in the Tony-winning Broadway hit, Dear Evan Hansen.
- The Greatest Showman was a complete, soul-stirring artistic experience that satisfied my artistic cravings, visually and aurally. And I don’t think I’ll get over it soon. At least not in the next two to three months.