17 Thoughts on The Greatest Showman

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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!”
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. “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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.

 

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Image grabbed from Just Jared.

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#9Mornings 9: Peace of the Prince

(Read John 14:27)

Because of Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice, we finally have peace with God (Romans 5:1). His sacrifice reconciled us with the Father, which therefore fulfilled His role as the Prince of Peace. But apart from having peace with God, Jesus’ first coming and sacrifice also gave us the peace of God.

Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

This peace comes from knowing, believing and accepting the truth that the Lord is in control. 1 Peter 1:2 says, “May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord”. As we grow to understand the depth, richness and wonders of His love, we get to learn how to rest in His power and wisdom, and give our lives in His divine care (Ephesians 3:18–19, Psalm 27:13-14, Psalm 37:39-40, Psalm 55:22).

Our trust in Him grows, and we rely on His goodness and faithfulness to us. We may not know what the future brings nor can we predict it; but we learn to trust that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). This is how we know that He truly makes all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). We can be sure that His purposes will prevail and be fulfilled (Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 45:9; 46:9–11).

Because of Jesus, we can be confident that “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:39).

And this is the kind of peace we get to experience; the peace that truly “transcends all understanding”, so different and life-changing. It’s like no other. And we have Jesus to thank in this whole lifetime and beyond.

Let the incomparable peace of God rule in our hearts this Christmas and always.

Have a blessed and grace-infused Christmas! Thank You, Jesus!

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For further reading/reference:

#9Mornings 8: Peace with God

(Read Isaiah 9:6)

Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah foretold God’s plan and will to enter history as our Prince of Peace. Jesus is our Prince of Peace. He came to the world one peaceful night, with no extravagant fanfare, in the humblest of places.

The angels announced His birth to the shepherds, proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests (Luke 2:14). This signified the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ role—to establish peace between us and God.

Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In our sinful and broken state, we are considered enemies with God (Romans 5:10). “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Isaiah further prophesied, “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

This is the salvation that we sing about—Christ Himself dying on the cross for sinners who deserved wrath and death, reconciling us to God.  All our sins, transgressions, and iniquities have been forgiven because Jesus bore them, crucified them on the cross with Him. Christ, who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, so that we could be made right with God (2 Cor 5:21).

Because of this sacrifice, God’s people have been restored to a relationship of peace with Him (Romans 5:1). And this ultimately fulfils Jesus’ role as “Prince of Peace”

If we embrace Jesus by faith, we can be forgiven. When we acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour, we also receive Him as the heavenly Prince who established our peace with God.

Jesus, the Son given, the Christ, the Prince of Peace —made it all happen.

 

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Further readings/references:

Knowing the Peace of the Prince

Jesus is the Prince of Peace

#9Mornings 5: Mary Did Know

(Read Luke 1:46-56)

Mary’s hymn of praise, or commonly known as the “Magnificat” is one of the most iconic and celebratory moments in the Bible. After Mary was visited by an angel foretelling the birth of Jesus (see Luke 1:26-38), she met with Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist (see Luke 1:39-45). They shared the inexorable joy that’s about to come their way.

Mary’s song expressed her personal praise to the Lord for His treatment of her, and how the Almighty God had blessed the righteous through all generations. Moved with joy and gratitude, Mary sang of God’s favour and blessing in her life, and in the lives of the people who fear Him, who humble themselves before Him, and serve Him (v48-55).

Mary knew she was uniquely blessed, and magnified the Lord’s name, still recognising her humble state as a servant of God in a place of utter thankfulness. She declared the goodness and faithfulness of God over her life and her community (v48-55).

Mary knew and understood God’s consistent character and nature. She knew that the Lord loves and cares for the poor and the humble, always lifts them up, and never forsakes those who are in need of Him, especially His own dutiful servants (see Ps 102:27, Ps 149:4, James 4:10, Prov 3:34, Luke 6:20, 1 Pet 5:6-7).

Mary knew and acknowledged that everything that comes from God’s hand, is out of His mercy and grace (see James 1:17, James 4:6, Psalm 84:11). As one commentary says, Mary knew that “God owes her nothing; she owes God everything.”

Mary knew that when she accepted this blessing and responsibility, she had nothing to fear, because God Himself was her “Saviour” (see Isaiah 41:10, Ps 27:1). She trusted God enough to surrender her life, her future to His will, responding, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

Mary knew that God’s plans always prevail, and He never breaks His promises (Prov 19:21, Isa 14:27). She knew that God is in authority and His Word never fails (Deut 4:39, Joshua 21:45).

Let’s all learn from Mary’s example of humility—a servant who fears and honours God, who joyfully remembers His goodness and love, and who trusts in His plans and purposes.

 

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#9Mornings 3: Immanuel

(Read Matthew 1:23)

It was around 735 BC when the birth of Jesus was predicted by the prophet Isaiah to the nation of Judah (see Isaiah 7). And interestingly, Jesus was named hundreds of years before He was even born!

His name “Immanuel” translates to, and basically summarises the real essence of Christmas in these three words: “God With Us”. However, “Immanuel” is not really a personal name for Jesus, but rather a title or description of His role of bringing God’s presence to humanity.

When you look more closely into it, and reflect on this phrase more deeply, doesn’t it stagger you? The Lord, the Almighty God made a way to be physically with us, to dwell visibly among us. It speaks of the loving nature of our God—that out of His grace, He has given us a Messiah, a promise He had fulfilled us a long time ago because He is a faithful God (see Deut 7:9, Heb 10:23, 1Cor 15:57, Acts 15:11, Eph 2:8-9)

And notice how He didn’t send an angel or some sort of delegate or representative to do the job. He did it Himself, He came down Himself to rescue His people, to give life and hope to this desperate world. His name “Immanuel” merely signifies what kind of God we serve—a God who cares, a God who is personal, a God who is present.

Therefore, the best part of Christmas is not just the festivities or the presents we give and receive; but it is knowing that the presence of God with us. In sorrow and joy, in trials and successes, He is with us.

 

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#9Mornings 2: Word Became Flesh

(Read John 1:14)

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We must realise that the Word of God is more than printed pages in a book. The Word of God is the person of Jesus Christ.

John 1:1-5 say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The Word (or Logos in Greek) refers to no other than Jesus Christ. And this passage speaks of the relationship between the Son and the Father even before everything was created. Jesus was right in the beginning with the Father and was God Himself (v1-2); was involved in the creation (v3); and is the invincible light of all mankind (v4-5).

Jesus Christ is the divine expression of God, the complete embodiment of the invisible and incomprehensible God. Everything that God is, His truth and totality is expressed in His Logos (Word), and this expression IS God. In Jesus, we see God. Verse 14 says, “…We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus was the Word. The Word was God. The Word became flesh. In other words, God became human. Hence, Jesus Christ was fully human, and Jesus Christ was fully God.

John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God…” God the Father, the Creator of the universe is Spirit, and is invisible to the human eye. In Biblical history, the law has been given to Moses by God (v17); and Yahweh has spoken through the prophets, all His promises and precepts. But there came a time when people, including leaders and so-called law enforcers had violated His words, and easily disregarded these divine commands from an “invisible God”, that they continued living in sin and rebellion (Ezekiel 22:26; Matthew 23:37).

And in due time, the Word (Jesus), the total embodiment of the nature of God, became flesh, was born human, and came to live with us (Matt 1:23; Rom 8:3; Phil 2:5–11). God’s Word in the person of Jesus, the “one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known” (v18). And while the law came through Moses, “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (v17). God Himself came down to preach the truth about His goodness, love and redemption to all mankind in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the gift of grace sent to mankind, to save us from sin and death, and to offer us eternal life regardless of our racial or social backgrounds (Colossians 3:11). Jesus—who experienced being human Himself, who got tempted, got hungry, got thirsty, became physically weak and tired, even experienced death—has become our High Priest who can empathise with us, having experienced all these, yet lived a sinless, spotless life, in complete surrender and obedience to God (Hebrews 4:15). And He offers us grace, He offers us mercy. He wants to forgive us, to be reconciled with us, to show us His loving ways, and share heaven with us. If only we will attempt to get close to Him, accept our need for Him, and embrace this priceless gift He is offering by His incarnation.

We must seek Jesus, and ask His Holy Spirit who dwells in everyone who’s placed faith in His name to make the living and active Word of God to be made flesh, and be alive in our own lives.

 

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Some substantial reads/references:

What does it mean that the Word became flesh (John 1:14)?

Jesus is the Eternal Word of God

The Word Became Flesh

 

 

#9Mornings 1: God so loved

(Read John 3:16-17)

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John 3:16 is probably the most popular and widely used Christian statement of why Jesus came to earth. And it points us to one simple thing: the love of God.

Jesus is the manifestation of this love. Jesus came to reveal God’s unfailing love and faithfulness to mankind (John 1:17). Because He loves us so, God made THE way for us. Jesus is that way (John 14:6), our way back to the Father.

Jesus offered Himself–fully God, He became fully man, took on flesh and blood, and dwelt among sinners (John 1:14). He lived a perfect and blameless life, in perfect obedience and surrender to the Father’s will (Heb 4:15, John 18:29).

As God had done with Abraham in Moriah, God had provided the perfect sacrifice for our sins; but this time, it’s His own Son. Jesus died in our place. He had to be born man to die for us sinners–to save the lost, to give His life a ransom for many, and to give us life (v17, Luke 19:10, John 10:10, Mark 10:45).

God loves you, the sinful and broken you, that He was willing His own Son, heaven’s perfect Lamb to save you. His love is so immense, so powerful that He did not even spare His own Son (Romans 8:32). His love is so consuming and unconditional that even when we’re still sinners He died for us (Romans 5:8).

He offers eternal life through Jesus; we gain eternal life by believing in Him, and placing our faith in His sacrifice.

Jesus is the Father’s gift of grace to mankind, out of His boundless love. The gift of grace that we do not deserve. And this undeserved gift is, and must be the main reason for the season, the reason why we’re thankful, the reason why we celebrate.

#JESUS
#Godsolovedtheworld

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9 Mornings

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Growing up a devout Catholic (I am now a reformed Christian), my family observed some really important Christmas traditions. One of them was the Simbang Gabi (Night Mass), sometimes called Misa De Gallo—it is a series of nine dawn Masses celebrated for the Advent season, in preparation for Christmas Day, which commemorates the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Does that make sense? Just Google it for yourself perhaps.)

Now, I just thought it’d be interesting to design a Bible study plan via Dirty Bibles that is stencilled through the 9-day event, except that they will be Bible devotions (straight from the Scriptures, minus all the fuzz that comes with it. Also, no need to wake up before sunrise!)

I mean, this celebration perhaps is the pinnacle (apart from the Resurrection) of our Christianity—honouring and believing in the love and the grace of God revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully man; the eternal Word who became flesh and dwelt amongst us, the real Saviour of mankind (no offense to the Justice League).

It’s the perfect season to get keep our Bibles open and busy again. Dirty it up with markings and annotations, with creases and tears. And pray with the very words from it, knowing and believing in our hearts that our God is alive, and He desires for us to get closer to Him each day.

Ready for this? Start here.

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R

He is

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It’s that time of the year again. The time when we remember the coming of our Lord and Saviour. The greatest scandal in history of mankind—the Architect of the universe and the Creator of all coming down to dwell amongst the broken, the fallen. All for love.

Jesus. The Christ. The Messiah. The First and the Last. The Beginning and the End. The Lamb of God. The Bread of Life. The Good Shepherd. The Prince of Peace. The Great I Am.

He was, is and will always be God Almighty, all-powerful and all-knowing.

His love is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Only He is worthy of all worship and adoration.

Only His name shall be exalted and praised among the nations.

Only His love can save, can deliver, can restore, can heal, can rebuild, can sustain.

His is the kingdom, the power, the glory now and forever.

King of Kings. Lord of Lords.

Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:23

rrrr

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23)

It could a little too overwhelming when you sit down and reflect what we really celebrate during Christmas. And essentially, it can be summarised in this very word, “Immanuel”.

It’s about God coming here to be with us, to dwell among us.

That the King of kings, the Lord of all lords would come to live with us so we could live with Him.

That the almighty God, the giver of all things would come to be so close, so near, so personal with us.

That Heaven’s most precious Son would come to reconcile us to the God Most High, ransom us, and bring us back to life.

There aren’t enough words and expressions we can use to convey the weight of these truths. And that the best thing to do in this season is to be thankful, to celebrate the goodness and the graces we have experienced, and we continue to receive.

Our King is with us, our Saviour is with us. He loves us and is always for us. He fights for us and He justifies us. He is always near.

Wishing you all a merry and glorious Christmas! And here’s to wishing you a successful year ahead!

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R.

A Christmas reflection

A Christmas reflection

Beyond all the yuletide fun, christmas shopping, massive clearance sales, Santa and the reindeers; foods, decors, toys and all that, there’s the story of JESUS—the Christmas kid who happens to be the Messiah, the Saviour. They say that the 25th … Continue reading