‘The Greatest Showman’

When I was a kid, I remember going to the Shrine Circus in the fifth grade. I vaguely remember some of the acts, but I do recall getting a light-up toy that I spent $3 on. The battery ended up getting corroded, and the toy was basically useless. My family also visited the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Admittedly, I can’t remember much from this trip as well, but it’s always interesting to learn the history of the circus. Maybe one day I’ll return.

Ross and I went to see “The Greatest Showman” movie last Saturday. It came recommended to us by friends. Hugh Jackman was starring as P.T. Barnum in the musical drama. It’s only nominated for one Oscar, Best Song, but it turned out to be a fun and fast hour and 45 minutes.

After seeing Hugh Jackman in “Les Miserables,” I knew the man could sing. The movie opened with a song and dance routine that reminded me of a Janet Jackson video. Actually, a few of those dances would remind me of a Janet Jackson video. And I’m thinking, isn’t this movie supposed to be set in the 1840s? But it didn’t matter, as it was just plain entertaining.

We look back to Barnum’s childhood as the son of a poor tailor. In the movie, he fancies Charity, the daughter of uppercrust parents. They don’t like Phineas hanging around their daughter. In the movie, she’s sent off to finishing school while he’s scrounging to survive, and the two send letters to each other.

Eventually they grow up, get married and have two daughters. But Phineas is always a dreamer. In the movie, he gets the funds to start a museum of oddities, figuring people will pay to see such attractions. At first, it flops like a lead balloon. But then, at the suggestion of his kids, he looks for the the freaks of New York City, like the bearded lady, a midget to portray Tom Thumb, the Dog Boy, and an African-American trapeze duo.

Always trying to advance himself, Barnum meets playwright Phillip Carlyle, played by Zac Efron. Yeah, some artistic liberties were taken with this character as he didn’t exist. But Efron is easy on the eyes and also can sing.

Even though the movie was quite fictionalized, it was entertaining. And of course it left me wanting to read more on P.T. Barnum. Granted he wasn’t a song and dance man, but I’m sure he led a colorful life. Turns out he wrote several books back in the 1800s, including “Life of P.T. Barnum,” “The Art of Money-Getting” and “The Humbugs of the World.” There’s also a book “P.T. Barnum: America’s Greatest Showman” by Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr. and “The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of P.T. Barnum” by Candace Fleming (this one is more of a children’s book).