Movie Review: The Greatest Showman – “Something Sensational”

The Greatest Showman

A few nights ago, in the middle of a random chat with two good friends, Kayla  and Beth (@kfink12 and @randombeth, respectively – follow them on Twitter, they’re awesome), it came out that I had not seen The Greatest Showman. I missed it in the theaters because … life, and I hadn’t watched it online yet. I was vaguely familiar with “This Is Me” and the soundtrack in general but mostly, no idea. On their recommendation, I rented and it was hooked in seconds. I was enamored with this fucking movie from that first Thump and I am so happy that I listened to them, its made my life better.

The Greatest Showman is officially described as a drama/romance but really its musical fantasy; an hour and forty five minute escapist adventure where you will be enveloped in visual and aural spectacle with only a few chances to catch your breath.  “They don’t understand but they will.”  The eponymous Greatest Showman, one Phineas T. Barnum, say this line to one of the curiosities he is recruiting for his show but it works as well for a summary of the film as a whole.

Before the movie begins, you think you’re going to get some goofy songs and Wolverine in old-timey clothes. What you actually get, though, is a life experience that will stay with you.  This is not hyperbole.  The Greatest Showman is going to work its way into your heart and mind and take up toe tapping residence there. My advice? Just give in, its worth the surrender.

Released on December 20, 2017, The Greatest Showman comes from first time director Michael Gracey and writers, Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon (Chicago, Dreamgirls). The music and lyrics for the impressive soundtrack come from current “it” boys, by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (La La Land) while Ashley Wallen provided the immense choreography.  On the acting front, Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Keala Settle, and Rebecca Ferguson lead a sprawling cast that spend almost two hours singing, dancing, and emoting their ways into your heart. 

The Greatest Showman is a story about both the dangers of losing your loved ones to unchecked ambition and, more importantly for our day and age, acceptance. Acceptance of yourself and of others, no matter who they are or what they are or in what package they come in.  Acceptance of what you have and realizing that chasing a dream has to be tempered with not losing sight of what you already have.

Phineas Taylor Barnum is the subject of this dual thematic exploration but this is NOT an historically accurate documentary on the origin story of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The Greatest Showman is a very loose accounting of the life and early career of PT Barnum as a vehicle to deliver the messages that it wants to deliver.  Lost in the story are almost all of Barnum’s negative traits (and history shows us there are many).  And of those bad traits we do see, he corrects them by movie’s end because that’s the point of the story.

I say all of this because “historical inaccuracy” was a common complaint in the mostly bad critical reviews this movie received.  Those critics who saw this movie and walked out with nothing more than, “that’s not how it really happened” should be professors at Ivy League universities and not film critics for general audience movies.  They’ve not only mis-interpreted the point of The Greatest Showman, they missed the point entirely.   We could have had a story about Ford or any of the turn of the Century Robber Barons but using Barnum – we get to ingest the lessons served in a menagerie of color and sound.

So, please, don’t comment on this review about how the movie got important details of Barnum’s life wrong. I know. Write to the history channel.  I don’t care. Moving on.

As the production cards roll, a percussive anthem cues up on the soundtrack and we’re immediately launched into a cacophony of sound and color and action. As Hugh Jackman growls the opening lines to “The Greatest Show” before launching into the full throated vocals of one of the shows main tent pole songs, you are immediately engaged because, how can you not be. Jackman, in tophat, cane and embroidered ringmaster coat, leads us around a literal circus – even the audience of this circus is telling us that this is the greatest show.  And by the looks of it, they’re right. We’re warned right from the beginning that we won’t be able to fight this film’s charm and frenetic energy:

Where it’s covered in all the colored lights
Where the runaways are running the night
Impossible comes true, it’s taking over you
Oh, this is the greatest show
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

But, before long, the magic is gone, the lights fade out, the bass leaves Jackman’s substantial voice and this Showman among Showmen resolves into nothing more than a young man staring in the window, day dreaming of something more.  Meet Phineas Taylor Barnum, a son accompanying his father, a tailor, to an onsite job at the high brow home of the Hallett family.  While his father finishes his work with Mr. Hallett, PT uses his natural human flair to make Charity, Hallett’s young daughter, spit take her high brow tea all over her high brow dress. Before Hallett can punish his daughter – Hallett does not smile and he does not appreciate the sort of riff raff that he see in the looks of young Barnum here – PT claims responsibility. For his troubles, he receives a devastating bitch slap and a warning to stay away from Charity.

Later on, Charity finds Phineas on a beach dune and tells him she is being shipped off to finishing school.  PT vows that they won’t allow the distance to harm them and the two launch into the lovely ballad, “A Million Dreams.”

Over the soaring voices of young Ellis Rubin (Young PT) and Skylar Dunn (Young Charity), we get our first time lapse montage of the film.  “A Million Dreams” takes us through Charity and PT beginning their secret friendship, Charity leaving, the two young loves exchanging letters and PT growing up. During an instrumental interlude, we see grown PT, Hugh Jackman has arrived, approaching  the Hallett house to assure Mr. Hallett that he’ll provide his daughter the life she deserves and to also take a now grown Charity, played by Michele Williams, away from this oppressive bougie hellhole.  Mr. Hallett  sneers that Charity will be back because PT sucks.  That guy can eat my ass, he’s the worst. Gah, hate him.

‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

Back into the song (with the adults assuming the vocals), we watch as PT and Charity begin their new life together in New York City.  Screw the historical inaccuracies, the most fantastically unbelievable part of this entire movie comes now as this young couple dances on an impossibly picturesque Manhattan rooftop, complete with the most perfectly hung laundry (I don’t even believe these shirts were ever actually dirty they are so pristine white) and a moon overhead that must have been shipped in from the La La Land movie lot.  I joke but this entire montage is photographed beautifully and this end scene is nothing short of visually breathtaking.

Cut to Barnum, now employed at a shipping company, trying to pitch his boss on adopting gliders as the next evolution of the shipping business. Unfortunately, the company is bankrupt and everyone is fired. When all of your ships have sunk to the bottom of the South China Sea, really can’t keep your doors open.  At home that night, on that ridiculous rooftop, Charity takes the loss of PT’s job in stride because she’s got the right perspective on life – those sweet moppets over there, they’re the treasure of life.  You can see the wheels already turning in PT’s head  when he apologizes to his wife because he sees himself as failing to provide the life she deserves.  Its the moppet Caroline’s birthday and after they all make wishes aloud (the fuck – you cant make wishes a loud, what are they even doing?), the moppet quickly reprises the theme of a million dreams … that we’re going to make.

At a loan office, PT pitches a macabre museum of curiosities and wax figures. Risky venture? Sure, but PT offers his entire shipping fleet, safely ensconced in the South China Sea, as collateral.  And that, my friends, is how you secure a $10,000 loans.  We cut over to PT showing his family around the oddities museum and Charity’s trepidation is palpable.

PT: “Now, I know how it looks …”
Charity: “If you didn’t *nervous chuckle*,  I’d be worried.”

Barnum assures her, they just need customers. Sure. Yes. That’s how business works.  Unfortunately, the museum opens and NO ONE cares.  One night, when tucking the sleepy moppets into bed, they suggest that he’s got too many dead things in the museum, he needs something alive. He needs, “something sensational.” Indeed moppet. Indeed.

He knows they’re right and he begins to correct his course immediately.  At the home of Charles Sherwood Stratton (who PT saw at the loan office), we know him better as General Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey), PT arrives to pitch the little person on joining his troupe.  Tom posits that Barnum is setting him up to be laughed at; Barnum counters that people are already laughing, why not make some money on it.  Fair.Point. But its not enough. PT sells him on what he really sees, the potential to elevate this object of ridicule.  To take Charles Stratton and make him someone the world will salute.  Having secured his key stone, PT begins to recruit for his curiosities and is tipped off to a “freak” with a voice like lightning in a bottle.  In a washer woman’s house, Barnum finds said voice and the bearded lady it belongs to.  Where others would grimace, Barnum looks elated. Where others see ugliness, Barnum sees beauty. “They don’t understand, but they will,” PT promises Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle).  This is what he is selling. Acceptance, and the ability to transcend what we and others think we can be.  The odd to the magnificent; the freak to the beautiful – this is the promise of PT Barnum.

We get our second montage – this of Barnum assembling his menagerie of outcasts and misfit.  We briefly meet the future stars of his show. After a bit, the Menagerie is set, the show is hot and tickets are selling. The night of the first real show arrives and Barnum assure Lettie that “they’re going to love you.” He gets the General Tom Thumb on his horse, sends it off and the spectacle begins. We’ve got the African American brother/sister act, W.D. and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), on trapeze, we’ve got synchronized dancing that reminds me of so many Freddie Prinze, Jr. movies from the late 90s (but so much cooler), we’ve got Tom Thumb shooting his gun from horseback, we’ve got Lettie, the bearded lady, singing like a boss. We finally see the color and sound and wonder – the exuberance – we were promised in the opening song of “The Greatest Show” but this time … its all real.

The movie’s second tent pole song cues up, “Come Alive”, and the lyrics remind us that its time to step into the light and be ourselves.

When the world becomes a fantasy
And you’re more than you could ever be
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
And you know you can’t go back again
To the world that you were living in
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
So, come alive!
I see it in your eyes
You believe that lie
That you need to hide your face
Afraid to step outside
So you lock the door
But don’t you stay that way
No more living in those shadows
You and me we know how that goes
‘Cause once you see it, oh you’ll never, never be the same

The reviews come in and they are abysmal though he does like one particular phrase from the negative review of James Gordon Bennett (Paul Sparks) – he calls the show a “circus.” Much like the critics of this movie, it has no impact on the ticket sales – the show is a hit.  PT’s arrived. He’s a success and can provide the life he always thought he had to prove he could earn.  End of story, close the lights and lets go home.  Negative Ghostrider. Its not enough; Barnum is never satisfied.

PT, realizing he’s something of a joke with the Blue Blood crowd, uses a chance meeting with playwright, Phillip Carlyle (Zac  Efron), to make inroads.  In an inspired song and dance number, complete with percussive liquor shots and heavy deal negotiation, PT convinces Carlyle to embrace his inner freak and “run away to join the circus” as it were.  Let the song and dance of negotiation begin with “The Other Side.”

Don’t you wanna get away from the same old part you gotta play
‘Cause I got what you need, so come with me and take the ride
It’ll take you to the other side
‘Cause you can do like you do
Or you can do like me
Stay in the cage, or you’ll finally take the key
Oh, damn! Suddenly you’re free to fly
It’ll take you to the other side

An important takeaway from this scene is that Phillip is the scion of the highest of high brow families and risks complete social and financial disgrace for even partnering with Barnum. PT flips this on its head and sells Phillip on the “freedom” he will gain from breaking free of the humdrum life he’s led.   Hmmm, the idea of being true to who you are?  Sounds like Carlyle definitely needs to be in with this crowd.  Another highlight – Zac Efron can hang with Jackman in blazing personality and maybe surpasses him in fancy footed dance ability.

“The Other Side” ends with Barnum showing  Carlyle around the menagerie and all noise drops out when he makes eye contact with the pink haired beauty, Anne Wheeler.  This is love at first sight if you’ve not seen it before.  He claims to her, to not have an act.  “Everyone’s got an act,” she assures him.  The joy is aborted when we see the protests have increased and maybe is becoming a dangerous situation.

The next day, Carlyle announces that he’s scored an audience for PT with the Queen but it becomes quickly apparent that, as this is a family affair, the entire circus goes or no one goes.  London y’all!

In the court of Queen Victoria, PT and the troupe are introduced to her Queenliness and when Tom tosses a short person joke in her face, its all awkward gasps until the Queen bursts out laughing.  They’re a Hit!! Barnum has now achieved everything he’s meant to! He has clearly arrived since he can count the Queen of Fucking England as one of his fans! Stop the camera, pack it up, time to get some Chinese food and call it a night.

Nein.  Not yet; he hasn’t gotten “there” yet.  The question, where is there should definitely be percolating in your head and maybe even more importantly, the answer that Barnum has no idea where “there” is or what “there” is – all he knows is that its still off in the distance.

At a reception following meeting the Queen, Barnum arranges a “chance” meeting with Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale” (Rebecca Ferguson).  NOTE: All Jenny Lind songs are performed in the movie by Loren Allred (its still a mystery to me why they wouldn’t cast someone that could sufficiently sing the role when they did for everyone else … but there you go).   Anyway, Barnum pitches himself as the next step in Lind’s career – he promises to make her world famous and rich to boot (though she says she donates most of her money to charities).

Why would he do this, he’s never even heard her sing?  “People come to my show for the pleasure of being hoodwinked. Just once, I’d like to give them something real.” Ah, another look under the hood of Barnum’s mind.  Despite his nonchalant air with the critic Bennett, its begun to bother PT that he is selling these hoaxes and oddities for entertainment – he is coming to think of it as false fame. In essence, he’s doubting his entire success because its not high brow entertainment enough. He wants to be who Carlyle was before Phillip ran away to the circus.  Selling virtue to the Upper Crust so that he can earn that praise and acceptance from people like Charity’s parents.  What he fails to see is that those kinds of people NEVER accept people like PT or his Menagerie Family and, more importantly, that is THEIR problem to resolve, not his.  But nope nope nope. Jenny Lind is the ticket to legitimate fame and praise and acceptance.

Fast Forward to Jenny Lind’s US debut and PT is having all the feels. Feels of anxiety that maybe she can’t sing; feels of the Blue Bloods that are in attendance tonight; and feels of where to hide his Troupe … which, the fuck Barnum? These are your people …

Anyway, he introduces Jenny Lind and “Never Enough” is a show stopper of a performance.  Done simply on a lighted stage, we cut to everyone’s reaction shots as this beautiful voice explodes into their life.  We see Phillip and Anne hold hands … until his parents see them and then he drops her like a sack of potato. Not being stupid, she leaves rather suffer his indignities.  For his part, PT listens to Lind’s voice with ecstasy etched on his face because he know, HE KNOWS, this is his ticket to legitimacy.  The crowd agrees with him as thunderous applause erupt when she finishes singing.  For her part, Jenny looks off stage at Barnum with … what longing?

All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the nightsky
Will never be enough
Never be enough

Could there be a more apt description of Barnum’s restlessness?  The movie sets this up as perhaps a romantic entanglement but I never get that vibe from him (from her, definitely but not him).  By this point in the movie, Jackman has so well set out PT Barnum’s thought process, it was clear to me, even on a first viewing, that his intention with her – the ecstasy on his face – it is purely driven by the fame and validation she’ll bring him. Not romantic.

At the after party, Barnum causes an unnecessary row with Charity’s parents who are in attendance because, his insecurities run deep and ridiculously. Jenny provides a buffer toast to relieve the awkwardness and then flirts a little too closely to PT’s face.  Outside the party, the Troupe tries to get in for some drinks but Barnum literally slams the door in their face. His excuse is that they have to perform a show soon but the clear meaning is that PT is embarrassed of his family in front of the Upper Crust Crowd.  This is Barnum’s lowest point in the movie, the section where you kind of wish he would drop dead.  Because? C’mon dude.  These people made you what you are.  But no worries, because this Troupe, they know whats up.

“This Is Me” is a solid blockbuster of a song, an Anthem of epic proportions, and the third tent pole song of this movie.  As they leave the party and make their way to Circus, the Troupe, led by Lettie’s voice which is equal parts fierce and strong and small and fragile, smash the patriarchy with song.  In their fullest voices they put everyone on blast – they don’t need to apologize for a fucking thing, they are here to stay and you need to get right with that or get out of their way.  We see Carlyle watch the climax of the performance and he can see the change taking hold even if PT is too absent to notice.  This Troupe? This Menagerie of Freaks? They have found strength and solace and acceptance amongst each other and no one, not Barnum, not Jenny Lind, not any judgey Blue Blood, is going to take that away from them.

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
Combined with another stunning, large ensemble choreographed dance routine, one cannot help but jump out of your seat and sing along. At least in my life, this is the exact kind of song I have needed to here from time to time; the idea that you’re not alone even in the darkest times when there literally seems to be no one that understands you or wants you or loves you or cares whether you wake up tomorrow or not … some one does. You matter to someone out there and that someone accepts you as you are, not as you should be, not as they want you to be.  Make no apologies, this is me.
My friends had a mini debate on which song was the most impactful. While “A Million Dreams” and “From Now On” certainly resonate with me and I can easily apply their message to my life, the emotional connection to “This is Me” was instantaneous.  Every line of the song literally gave voice to unresolved feelings that have been with me most of my life, that still bother and peck away at me, even as I write this, and just knowing someone had the thought to express this idea made me immensely hopeful that everything I just wrote above about someone caring and accepting you is actually true and not some dime store pop-psychology.
Look out ’cause here I come (look out ’cause here I come)
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Cut to the next morning and we learn that Barnum isn’t going to just have Jenny play two shows in NY as originally intended but rather is going to take her on a US tour.  Alone, leaving the Troupe at home in NY with Phillip.  Also, he’s spending a tremendous amount of money for the traveling show, putting the enterprise deep into hock.  Carlyle tries to convince him that every thing is falling apart because PT isn’t around but he doesn’t want to hear it.  [Hat tip to Eagle Eared (is that a thing?) Friend Kayla for pointing out the Fun Fact that an instrumental version of “The Other Side” is playing in the background this entire scene … its music in the scene, not soundtrack)
After her leaves, Lettie tells Phillip that he shouldn’t apologize for Barnum and also, he’s late for his date … which is at the theater with Anne.  Even though she didn’t know it was a date.  Carlyle’s parents show up to throw shade on this couple some more. Anne takes off but this time, Phillip stands up to his shitty parents and then chases after the woman he loves.
In the empty circus, Phillip tries to convince Anne that they can be together but she’s doubtful. Over the strains of “Rewrite the Stars”, the couple try to work through their seemingly impossible relationship and try to get to a place where they can maybe make it work – maybe the impossible is possible. In the end, Anne tells him, “You know I want you,It’s not a secret I try to hide.  But I can’t have you,We’re bound to break and my hands are tied.”  I should mention that this entire scene takes place while the two perform an aerial dance tied up in a rope, rising and falling, over and over again.  I took the entire scene as a metaphor for the push and pull of their opposing viewpoints but even without subtext, its a visually stunning piece of choreography and film-making. Add in that it may be Efron’s best vocal chops in the movie and its a heart pounding scene and sexy as fuck.
We move to our next set piece right away with PT saying goodbye to Charity and the girls as he heads out on the road with Jenny Lind.  Over Michelle Williams’ solo effort, “Tightrope,” we get a montage of not only Charity adjusting to single parenthood but also Lind killing it on the road and Carlyle, now in his own Ringmaster garb watching over the circus and keeping a close eye on Anne.
Hand in my hand and you promised to never let go
We’re walking the tightrope
High in the sky
We can see the whole world down below
We’re walking the tightrope
Never sure, will you catch me if I should fall?
Well, it’s all an adventure
That comes with a breathtaking view
Walking the tightrope
The song builds to climax has Charity dances with her husbands through their house as we watch from outside a window.  As the song crescendos, PT disappears in a wisp of curtains and again, she’s alone.  Damage has been done but is it irreparable?
On the road, following a performance and rave review, Jenny misjudges the tone of the room and makes a move on PT. Because this was never sexual for him, he naturally refuses her advances.  He says he is going to leave the tour but she still leaves, visibly upset and probably not a little angry at how this played out.
Back in NY, some of the protesting roughnecks we have been watching all movie finally make their move to get this freak show to move on.  Lettie and the Troupe are far beyond taking such crass treatment and an all out brawl ensues.  The circus catches fire.  As this is happening, Barnum returns home to Charity and the girls who are waiting to pick him up. He glosses over the reason for the early return but any deeper discussion is muted when fire trucks (or what passed for fire trucks in the mid-1800s) come rushing by mentioning the fire at the circus.
At the scene, Phillip rushes into the blaze because he believes Anne is missing.  She comes around from another side and PT, realizing that Carlyle will be searching in vain, rushes in after him.  But not before exchanging a look with Charity in which he communicates what he is about to do and she expresses her feelings on the matter perfectly, all without a word being spoken.  After a dramatic pause, Barnum emerges with an unconscious Carlyle in his arms.
The next day, Bennett visits PT at the rubbled remains of Barnum’s dreams but he’s not actually there to gloat. In fact, he tells PT that while he always hated his show and would never call  such crass performance art … it made people happy and he should rebuild for that reason alone.  Also, Jenny Lind cancelled her tour so you officially no longer have any money and your alleged affair is all over all the newspapers. Whelp! Good Luck!
Zooming home, PT finds Charity in mid-“I’m leaving your ass” but its as much to do with the fact that the bank has called their note and its foreclosing on the house as it is, that she doesn’t want to speak to him. Double Whelp.
At a bar, the Troupe arrives to find Barnum drowning his sorrow. He tells them that he has no money to pay them but that’s not why they’re here you dummy.  They’re here because you’re their family and they need you as much as you need them.  You gave each other all the validation we need – that confirmation that someone, does in fact give a shit about us and loves us the way we are.  “You gave us a real family. And the circus, that was our home.  We want our home back.” So, can we get back to doing that please?!?
PT thinks on these words as the spoken part of the final tent pole song of the show spins up, “From Now On.”
If all was lost
Is more I gain
‘Cause it led me back
To you
Barnum, through working out these feelings with his Family, realizes that he had all the success and validation he’d ever need. That anyone would ever need.
I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else’s dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop
And see you here
I remember who all this was for
And when you realize that you had everything you need, the last piece of the puzzle is how to get back there …
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight!
It starts tonight!
Let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on!
From now on!
From now on!
And we will come back home
And we will come back home
Home again!
Barnum’s arc is completed by returning to where he began. Literally. He finds himself at the Hallett home, looking for his wife. But, just as when they were children, she can be found on a beach dune.  “I wanted to be more than I was,” he says to her by way of explanation but Dude, I think she totally gets that. Even though she shouldn’t have to make it any clearer, she tells him that “I never wanted anything but the man I fell in love with.”
Let this promise  in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
However big
However small
From now on …
From Now On
Oh, these crazy kids, they’re going to make it.
We head over to the still mostly rubble site of the theater and Barnum shows up to announce the bank said no to him … repeatedly and emphatically.  Carlyle chimes in that “you brought joy into my life.” All our lives the Troupe agrees, and Phillip proposes to stake the new Circus in exchange for being equal partners.  And a new building? No need for a building … just need a tent!!
We bookend the movie with the newly unveiled big top circus in full spectacle … lions and elephants (all CGI – PETA still complained because, of course they did), trapeze, Lettie, the entire Troupe is on full display. The only difference?  Barnum hands off the top hat to Phillip — its his time to be the ringmaster; Barnum has a date to watch his daughters grow up …
It’s everything you ever want
It’s everything you ever need
And it’s here right in front of you
This is where you wanna be (this is where you wanna be)
As the soundtrack reprise fades out, we join PT and Charity watching the girls dance. He mumbles the refrain that this is in fact the greatest show.  Its right in front of you.
The  Noblest Art is that of Making Others Happy
-P.T. Barnum
Thoughts.  I said most of what I wanted say above but I’ll reiterate some points.  I don’t understand the complaint of damning this movie for its inaccurate portrayal of both PT Barnum the man and the atrocious history that circuses have had with animals over the generations.  This movie is using the idea of PT Barnum as a narrative device to deliver a message of family, of acceptance, of love and being present in your life as it is now, not as you may hope it is one day. Be. Present.Now.  The Barnum we get here is built for this character arc and in that way, it accomplishes perfectly the mission its set out to do.
If this was a film about PT Barnum the man, the legend, and the nitty gritty business of his creation, running and sale of the circus, and they portrayed him as this apple eyed dogooder, I would feel 100% different but its not. That is not the goal, aim or objective of The Greatest Showman.  Any other position is someone being argumentative for the sake of hearing their voice or just dense as to what they are actually watching.
I spoke a lot above about the music in this movie and referred to four of the songs specifically as “tent poles.” I did that because they are the four songs that support the movie and give it its emotional drive and impact and dot he most to move forward the core messages of the film. Also, tent pole as an allusion in a movie about the circus is just adorable writing.  “The Greatest Show” grabs our attention by force of will and echoing percussion and sets a table for us that will be filled with delicious treats for all of our senses.  We know instantly what’s in store for us – color and sound – the greatest show. And dancing, so much goddamned dancing, it made my knees hurt just watching.
Don’t fight it, it’s coming for you, running at ya
It’s only this moment, don’t care what comes after
Your fever dream, can’t you see it getting closer
Just surrender ’cause you feel the feeling taking over
The second tent pole song is “Come Alive”, a song that commands to get woke and stop being a zombie shuffeling through the world.  Open your eyes, literally and figuratively and embrace the world around you.
‘Cause you’re just a dead man walking
Thinking that’s your only option
But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day
Sun is up and the color’s blinding
Take the world and redefine it
Leave behind your narrow mind
You’ll never be the same
The third tent pole song, and Anthem of it all, is “This Is Me.” As movie recommender Kayla wrote, “Finding who you are and being able to overcome what society thinks of you and prove you are who you [are] and that’s enough for you.” “… the moment everything changes.” There is nothing more to say – the ability to hold your head high, say this is who I am and flip off the naysayers and haters, you’ve done as well as you can do.  Fuck everyone else.
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
The final tent pole song is “From Now On,” Barnum’s song of redemption and change.   “This song meant so much to me because I had been running for so long and decided finally I didn’t need to run anymore.” These songs resonate to all of us on such personal levels and they are all correct.  This song made me feel X and it made you feel Y and we are both right.  These songs are transcendent and their meanings are as classic as music itself.
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
It starts tonight
And let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on
From now on
From now on
And we will come back home
And we will come back home
Home, again!
If we ever get to the point where we can’t go home again, well, what the hell are we even doing then?!?  Where there is forgiveness, there is redemption and where there is redemption, there is grace.  And there is no greater gift to give ourselves and those we love than grace.
Thanks for reading … to next time!

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