Theatre & Reviews

The Greatest Showman Review

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Keala Settle, Sam Humphrey, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely, Ellis Rubin, Skylar Dunn

Director: Michael Gracey

The versatile Hugh Jackman anchors this entertaining musical mix about the life and times of P.T. Barnum, one of the world’s greatest showmen.

P.T.Barnum was a larger-than-life individual who came from humble beginnings but who was blessed with energy and a vivid imagination. He was a visionary who rose from nothing to create a mesmerising spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. It helped change the entertainment industry in America for ever.

What started off as a New York emporium celebrating human oddities – including a fat lady with a beard (Keala Settle) and a stunning voice, and a tiny adult whom they named Tom Thumb – was transformed over time into an impressive three ring circus.

The late-19th century and circus settings give director Michael Gracey plenty of eye candy to dispense whenever his gifted players aren’t dominating the  camera. His production is bold and colourful soaring melodies that stir the emotions. Oscar and Tony Award winning composers, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who were responsible for “La La Land’s” musical score, built their songs on pillars of classic styles. They address serious issues of love, greed and intolerance with inspiring melodies and lyrics.

The film traces Barnum from his impoverished boyhood to financially strapped fatherhood and then fame and fortune as he sets about exploiting a group of grotesque misfits. His show stirs public outrage although not as much as an interracial couple who become start-crossed lovers.


Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman’s proficiency in musical theatre is unquestioned. After performing in “The Boy From Oz” on Broadway and “Les Miserables” on film he has no trouble dealing with the outsize character that is P.T. Barnum. Jackman nails it at every turn.


He’s ably matched in this department by Zac Efron, as Barnum’s business partner Philip Carlyle, whose infatuation with a black trapeze artist (Zendaya) leads to a memorable aerial duet.

A surprise package is Michelle Williams as Barnum’s long-suffering wife, Charity, who can sing and dance with the best. In fact, the entire circus troupe, consisting of unknowns like Keala Settle, is a talented foundation for spectacle.

The Greatest Showman is the feel-good movie which every holiday season needs. P.T. Barnum is famous for saying there’s a sucker born every minute and he’s still right. I’m a sucker for a good movie and, while this may not be the greatest show on Earth, its close enough for me.



About the author

Peter Feldman

Peter has been a journalist and arts critic for almost 50 years and served on The Star in various capacities for 35 years, ending up as a specialist writer on films, music and theatre. During that time he travelled extensively on assignments and interviewed many international film and pop stars, both in South Africa and overseas. He also covered some of South Africa's biggest film and musical events. He was one of only two South African journalists to be invited by Steven Spielberg to the Hook film junket in LA in 1991 where he interviewed the famous director as well as Dustin Hoffman and the late Robin Williams. He attended the gala James Bond premiere in London in 1981 and did an iconic interview in a Rolls Royce with Roger Moore who played Bond. He spent a week touring England with Queen prior to their Sun City visit in 1983, interviewed a host of international stars on films sets in Hollywood and London and was the first local journalist to nail an interview with The Rolling Stones prior to their SA visit in 1995.
He is active in the freelance field and his work has appeared in a variety of South African newspapers and magazines. He has also worked on TV and radio (ChaiFM 101.9) in his specialist capacity. Over the years Feldman has been the recipient of several awards for his contribution to music journalism and the SA record industry. He is a recent recipient of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz award in recognition for his long standing journalistic support for the arts. He wrote lyrics for some top artists, including Sipho Mabuse, and had a hit disco single, "Video Games," which was released in 1988. He coined the phrase "Local is Lekker" which he used in his columns in The Star Tonight and broadcast in the 70s on David Gresham's popular afternoon show on Springbok Radio.

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