The Greatest Showman, review: ‘Hugh Jackman’s passion project, where every song’s a showstopper’

PUBLISHED: 11:20 21 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:20 21 December 2017

The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman

The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman

Archant

The Greatest Showman is starry-eyed with the silly, simple joy of being a musical

Two of Hollywood’s defining genres, the musical and the western, went out of fashion around the same time.

In the sixties, big-budget musicals were the equivalent of comic book movies today. But at the end of that decade, they started to flop and ever since then, just like the western, every attempt to make one has been a revival/ a deconstruction/ a reinvention/ the dying gasp of the genre.

La La Land was a reinvention of the deconstruction of the musical, but the Greatest Showman, a musical about circus pioneer P.T Barnum, is something a bit stranger and a bit bolder: it’s a movie adaptation of a Broadway musical, that was never a Broadway musical.

Older readers may remember the 80s Broadway/ West End musical Barnum, with Jim Dale and Michael Crawford in the title role. This is not that musical.

This is Jackman’s passion project which he has been trying to get made for nearly a decade: a proper musical with a new book and nine new songs in an age when movie audiences are accustomed to having their musicals pre-packaged, pre-heard, pre-hummed and with nothing left to chance.

Before being assigned his Wolverine claws, Jackman was primarily a song and dance man and Barnum P.T is an obvious role for him because he is a born ringmaster, a man whose instincts are constantly to throw his arms open and invite audiences to enjoy the show. The film follows his lead.

The story is a largely fact-free rewriting of Barnum’s life as a brisk series of big dramatic gestures, while every song is a belter, a show stopper, so catchy you assume you’ve heard it before. It’s difficult to put on a show when you’re showstopping it every few minutes and its frantic fury to keep you entertained doesn’t leave any time for depth.

The last musical to feature a big top was Moulin Rouge, a much more accomplished and knowing enterprise. But while that smug monstrosity was like being waterboarded with glitter, Greatest Showman is starry-eyed with the silly, simple joy of being a musical.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

11:37

The Islington Gazette can reveal why Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis was insistent the search for the club’s next manager only began officially on Friday - because Arsene Wenger turned the tables on the top brass.

10:00

Middlesex captain Sam Robson admits his side are up against it in their County Championship Division Two match at Derbyshire.

08:00

Royal Victoria Docks will play host to the British leg of the UIM F1H2O World Championship in June.

Now that we are officially in spring and despite some unseasonably cold weather recently, it is a good opportunity to reflect on all of the activities and events which have been happening on the Heath.

Yesterday, 21:03

The news Arsene Wenger is to leave Arsenal has shocked Arsenal fans across the globe, prompting a wide range of emotions. Read on for this moving piece by loyal Gooner Sophie Holdcroft as she recalls the days when the club ruled England - a wonderful time that was connected with the happiest of times with her late brother Ben.

The 46-year-old reacted to Spurs’ eighth successive FA Cup semi-final defeat and urged the club to keep going despite this disappointment

Yesterday, 19:45

Ben Pearce reflects on another FA Cup semi-final disappointment for Tottenham Hotspur and Mauricio Pochettino

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now