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.



Image grabbed from Just Jared.



All right, it’s Day 3 but I seriously did not feel like blogging today. Maybe because I already had a long, tiring day in uni. Seriously, how do you (or could you) endure the 3-hour break between lectures in this really crappy, indecisive weather? Not to mention the lack of decent sleep, and the absence of coffee in my system (i.e., by firm choice).

But, fine. Since the topic today is about the thing(s) that make me happy (which I must say is an innately broad question), I had just put my answers in bullet points so they’re much easier to say, much easier to read. Pardon me for the sloppy, inconsistent writing. All the answers were very off-the-cuff. I was writing this during my breaks and finishing it on the train going home after an almost 12-hour first day back in my uni life.

Here’s the list:

  • Short stories and short films:  They’re usually the most creative masterworks one would ever perceive. They’re short, straightforward, thought-provoking, frequently unresolved; and most important of all, they’re a lot easier to devour. You can just get lost easily in the story without feeling bored or being forgetful of the scenarios that have happened earlier. Call them the ‘quickies’. I’m just a fan of short works (e.g., Tropfest films, short indie films all over Vimeo) that bring absolute enjoyment.
  • Film analysis: Firstly, this only applies to the flicks that I deliberately want and love to analyse. The determinants could be the featured actors, the story, the script, the movie genre, the historical context, the acting technique applied, or the issue that it is dealing with. I’m a lover of Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lawrence. On a personal note, female actors are a lot easier to analyse simply because they are more emotionally driven and a lot more transparent than men, but it is always shrouded by so much sophistication and lots of complex nuances. And that is when analysing becomes more interesting for me. Kind of hard to articulate further.
  • Improvisation: This is mostly with music, especially in the jazz-blues-soul domain. However, the principle of improvising is quite vital in my own personal life. I get to enjoy the simultaneous and spontaneous fusion of freedom and creativity that happens realtime, knocking down any rule or restriction.
  • Collecting music albums: Seeing a glorious collection of the most amazing things in life brings a different kind of joy for an ultimate fan. FYI, I have all Christina Aguilera’s popular albums; all David Archuleta’s; all of my Regine Velasquez favourite’s and movie soundtracks; and many others’. Well, usually I only get the albums that really please me or really appeal to me, especially those of my head-over-heels-for music idols. But then, sometimes, even if I like an artist a lot but his or her recent release does not captivate me, I won’t bother purchasing it at all. I’ll probably just wait for the next one.
  • Reading self-development books: I think you already know this.  Continually seeking for practical and intellectual knowledge for cognitive development. This is where my handy bibles for memory improvement, talent cultivation and craft development become extremely useful. I hope they’re working.
  • Reading new knowledge books: I’m famished for new things every once in a while, especially the ones that can give you an edge to some extent, or the ones that will set you apart from the run-on-the-mill subject matters discussed on the net or at your local supermarket. The popular ones that I have are a couple of Rhonda Byrne’s works and a couple more from Daniel Coyle.
  • Learning new words everyday: Oh, this is very me. But really, who doesn’t want a wide vocabulary and a massive memory bank of unfamiliar words commonly used here and there everyday? I make sure that I get to learn at least one new English word a day and put that new word to use at least once. This makes me feel more informed, more knowledgeable. This practice somehow lessens the number of times I grab my dictionary when I’m reading any reading material that could contain outlandish terminologies.
  • Eating out and hanging out with friends: Who doesn’t like this? Who doesn’t feel happy about this? For someone so unsociable like me, this is such an overly tremendous privilege.
  • Movie marathons with family: Happens during holiday breaks. We could do it the entire day of almost every single day. Not to mention the mouth-watering, fresh-from-the-microwave smell of  butter flavoured popcorn that completes the marathon experience.
  • Chatting with my favourite teachers: They are my biggest inspirations, my role models. It’s like every time I chat with them even off campus, I learn so many brilliant ideas and insights which I find essential in refining my way of thinking. They are just incredible and they make me want to become like them someday.
  • Sketching: This is not new to everyone. I guess I can say that I have my personal sketching style, or artistic language that I’m sure not everyone can understand or appreciate. But I do it just for pure pleasure anyway. My style is a very personalised version of a mishmash of styles such as abstract and  minimalism. Love line art, too!