Young Phineas Taylor Barnum (Hugh Jackman) is the down and out son of a tailor who marries his childhood sweetheart Chastity (Michelle Williams) but while they live on hard times they are happy despite having Phineas going through a gauntlet of odd jobs and wanting to provide a better life for his wife and their two daughters. Deciding to risk it all, Phineas buys an old wax museum and converts it into a circus. P.T. calls for ‘’unique persons and curiosities’’ to star in the show he’s putting together.
With everyone from a tattooed man to a bearded lady answering the call, soon Barnum puts together a show and brings in the money, with the shock factor gaining the circus further publicity , they even take their show to Buckingham Palace. P.T enlists the help of noted playwright Philip (Zac Efron) to legitimize the circus and insulate them from angry protests. Philip agrees after an improv musical number, and seeing trapeze artist Anna (Zendaya).
With fame going to his head, P.T. begins to push himself away from the circus and his family to tour with opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), leaving Philip to run the circus and wanting to be with Anna despite the societal expectations and class taboos of the time. Remembering Chastity and his daughters, P.T. returns home just as thugs’ burn down the circus and Philip is hospitalized. Despite being effectively bankrupt, P.T. is encouraged to re-open the circus with the performers telling him how he gave them a home and a family.
Even the stingy critic admits to P.T. that putting people of all shapes and sizes, colours and walks of life on stage as equals was a celebration of humanity. That it is and with original songs that stir the soul, it makes The Greatest Showman a high note to close the curtain on a trying year for everyone.
(It’s already been nominated for Best Song, here’s hoping that Hugh Jackman gets an Oscar nomination. I’ll drive Doctor Cox crazy).
(Barnum’s Circus for Gifted Youngsters, anyone?)
By Daniel Murphy