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Movie musicals are a big hit or miss. For every Moulin Rouge! there’s a Rock of Ages. But Hugh Jackman has hit gold with his lead role in The Greatest Showman, a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. The movie chronicles his life and the birth of show business in New York City in the 19th Century.

Jackman gives his all to the role and you can hardly take your eyes off of him when he’s on screen. He embodies the larger-than- life spirit that Barnum was famous for. If Barnum was a carnival barker who could convince the audience to believe just about anything, Jackman is an actor who will make you believe it’s possible.

We see Barnum’s story start from humble beginnings as a tailor’s son. He marries childhood sweetheart Charity Hallett (the incomparable Michelle Williams) and they have two children. The movie soars when we see P.T. (Hugh Jackman) use his imagination to gift the audiences with a show befitting the times. He showcases those who society would discard. In a clear ode to misfits everywhere, “This is Me” sung by the bearded lady Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle) gives voice to those who would be silenced otherwise. You don’t have to have excessive hair growth, carry extra weight or be on one end or the other of the height spectrum to know the feeling of being judged by others. This anthem might just show up at talent shows and parades for years to come.

The story by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon shows how Barnum entered show business and how he made his fame and fortune. In his directorial debut, Australian Michael Gracey put his heart into creating a fantastic, feel-good movie, even if not entirely accurate. Benji Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the lyrics for La La Land, created the songs for this movie. They do a great job, as the music hooks you and there are plenty of showstoppers. The movie pushed the music styling into the 21 st Century to underscore how visionary Barnum was.

The story is a little by the numbers and leaves out huge swaths of Barnum’s tumultuous life in favor of forced drama and truncated character development. In fact, one of the main failings of the show is the lack of any real depth in the characters other than the stars. Adding another 20 minutes to the movie to flesh out the lives of the oddities would have gone a long way to endear them to the audience. The story did add on a superfluous love affair that only detracts from the narrative.

The love affair between Barnum and his wife is charming and believable – even if their age gap is glaring. The story does a disservice to the source material through its failure to delve into some of the more interesting and complicated topics. For example, the story reshapes the oddities into overly sensitive outcasts instead of leaning into their uniqueness. Less successful is Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) as star-crossed lovers. Although their number “Rewrite the Stars” soars in both lyric and choreography, their onscreen chemistry is not believable and their performances fall short.

Rebecca Ferguson delivered a breakout performance as Jenny Lind, the famous European soprano who Barnum convinces to tour America after meeting her in England. Her song “Never Enough” is haunting and an apt description of the pain a performer goes through to get acceptance. The song was actually recorded by The Voice contestant Loren Allred and is a highlight of the film.

I was skeptical going into The Greatest Showman. I didn’t think that it would be the greatest show on earth, but it was quite enjoyable. Overall, it was a fun, original musical and something all ages can enjoy. The music is slick, well produced and catchy. In fact, I am still humming “From Now On”!

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