The Greatest Showman

The life and work of P. T. Barnum get Broadway razzle-dazzle and sentiment in this occasionally rousing, visually smooth, emotionally diluted musical, set in nineteenth-century New York. P.T. (Hugh Jackman), a tailor’s son, and Charity Hallett (Michelle Williams), a socialite’s daughter, are unlikely childhood friends who marry. They have two daughters and are poor and happy, but P.T. has big dreams, and he borrows and schemes to realize them. 

His circus displays human curiosities who are callously called freaks by his critics (including a snooty theatre reviewer, played by Paul Sparks) but whose humanity and dignity his show brings to light. The impresario’s confrontations with public hostility, financial difficulties, and romantic misunderstandings form the core of the plot, but another crucial strand involves his high-society business partner, the playwright Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), who defies his own family and the conventions of the time by pursuing a romantic relationship with one of the company’s trapeze artists, Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), a black woman. (What Anne’s brother, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, thinks of the relationship is never specified.) 

The director, Michael Gracey, delivers quick doses of excitement in splashy scenes but has little feel for the choreographic action, offers scant historical substance, and displays slender dramatic insight.

Richard Brody


Best Bites

Bacon, Egg & Cheeseburger @ 3rd World Café
Cheese Fondue @ Chez Andy
Pizza @ Ley Café
Bread @ Various places
Sushi & Ramen @ Umai

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