By Zoya Timoshenko, Contributing Writer (Courtesy Photo)
Hugh Jackman thundered into the lives of Americans this Christmas season with the vivacious show we have all been waiting for.
A star-studded cast of Michelle Williams, Zendaya, and Zac Efron opened “The Greatest Showman” December 8, 2017. The musical is inspired by PT Barnum, the inventor of the circus in the United States in the late 1800s.
The show entertains its audience with energy as flying trapezists, tricksters jumping off dangerous objects and strategically choreographed and colorfully dressed dancers fill the screen.
In addition, the musical successfully ingrained its iconic soundtrack into the ears of every American fan. And while it is both aesthetically and euphonically pleasing, the show also powerfully displays American societal values through strong themes within the storyline.
One such American value is the journey of poverty to prosperity. In the musical, PT Barnum was or-phaned at a young age and grew up homeless. PT survived by stealing food to eat and old newspapers to resell. He married a woman from a wealthy family named Charity.
Charity was an easygoing soul without the grandiose dreams of wealth and prestige her elite family had for her. Barnum, however, was passionate about providing a prosperous and wealthy life for his wife and two daughters.
Although Barnum lived the first half of his life in poverty, he persevered with the entrepreneur spirit of an opportunist.
He lived the American dream of prosperity by promoting himself from rags to riches through the invention of the circus.
Even through his success he experienced many trials. However, after Barnum established his business empire, he lost everything in a fire.
His creativity led him to the idea of performing a circus show in a tent. The tent circus became a sensation for years in the United States.
Another American value presented in the musical is equality. The movie is set in the 1800s during a time when racial equality was lacking and when “freaks” were not welcome to walk the streets.
In the musical Barnum ‘s circus features an array of people consid-ered outcasts by their society. There are blacks, a woman with a beard, a midget, a man with a face completely full of hair, and yet another man with a face completely illustrated with tattoos.
In the musical, Barnum and his entertainers are invited to entertain the Queen of England. As the entertain-ers enter the throne room, they are introduced as Mr. Barnum’s “oddi-ties.” Throughout the whole musical, Barnum’s museum has protesters vehemently opposing the entertainers from being paid employees and in the public eye.
Barnum counter-culturally accepts the entertainers despite their nontraditional appearance. He gives them an opportunity to make a living, see the world, and show off their talent. When he meets his entertainers for the first time, they are shy and insecure.
Toward the end of the movie the characters are bold and confident. In the face of a protest they march boldly proclaiming, “When the sharpest words/ wanna cut me down/ I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out/ I am brave, I am bruised/ I am who I’m meant to be, this is me/ Look out ’cause here I come/ And I’m marching on to the beat I drum/ I’m not scared to be seen/ I make no apologies, this is me.”
The musical shows PT Barnum as someone who loved and respected people no matter their race, gender, or their appearance. He provided oppor-tunities for people for the outcast and minority. He respected them for their character instead of the labels his so-ciety stuck to them.
The story was powerful and impactful, but the music made it memorable. The soundtrack came out ranking No. 71 on the Billboard charts and has since exponentially shot to the top. It has found success not only in the United States but also in other countries like Australia and England.
All eleven songs weaved inspiration through the hearts of its audience. The opening song sends a thrill of an exciting circus that defies possibility. Hugh Jackman opens with a chorus illustrating the circus scene.
“Where it’s covered in all the colored lights/ Where the runaways are running the night/ Impossible comes true, it’s taking over you/ …We light it up, we won’t come down/ And the sun can’t stop us now/ Watching it come true, it’s taking over you/ Oh, this is the greatest show.”
The songs carry meaning beyond just a good beat. “A Million Dreams” tells the story of a child in poverty imagining a life of comfort and innocence.
“This is Me” boldly proclaims the courage and perseverance of a group of people bullied and ostracized their entire lives. Every other song carries a similar theme.
To embrace individuality, to treat people with respect no matter who they are, and to dream big.
In addition to an impressive storyline and a catchy soundtrack, The Greatest Showman also impressed in costume design. The costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick, is the one of the best in her field. In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily Mirojnick said, “I am really a crystal freak.”
Indeed, she is; she used 60,000 Swarovski crystals throughout the costumes.
Zendaya dazzled in her royal purple one-piece as she gracefully flew over the circus one rope at a time. Hugh Jackman’s red showman jacket fit with authority and leadership as he spun the circus into life.
The Bearded Woman’s dress glides to the nuances of a song as she moves across the floor, leading her squad into another powerful performance. The costumes bring to life the characters’ disposition.
The musical did not open with exceptional success. It’s first week made only $8 million. But like the perseverance of its characters however, the musical has worked itself up to become the sixth biggest musical hit in the box office domestically since 1974.
In Hollywood culture it is rare for a musical to open with only $8 million in the first weekend but then jump to be the sixth biggest musical hit.
In addition, the show has already been nominated for multiple awards. Hugh Jackman was nominated for the Golden Globe Awards Best Actor, and Ellen Mirojnick is nominated for the Costume Designers Guild Award for Best Costume Design.
The film was nominated for Golden Globe Best Motion Picture, Empire Award for Costume Design, Empire Award for Best Make-Up and Hairstyling.
An iconic track called “This is Me” was nominated for the Academy Award Best Original Song and won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
“The Greatest Showman” was exhilarating! It is appropriate and entertaining for all ages. The characters are inspirational. Their love for each other and their gutsy attitude to fight through societal standards and live a life of freedom will leave everyone wanting to reevaluate the way they treat people around them.
The presentation of the show entertains with lively colors and the action of talented performers. The soundtrack is the kind even your boyfriend will want to download and sing along to on the way home from the theater.
So, pop some popcorn this weekend and sit back to watch the greatest show by the greatest showman!