Musicals are great. Even when they are bad, they are great! Because if you have a show-stopping tune or two, it’s so easy to get swept up in the beat.
This can be said for The Greatest Showman. The latest musical starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, pioneer of the showbiz industry, is chock full of amazing numbers. The songs are so good that they literally etch themselves into your cranium.
I watched the film two weeks ago and, since, I’ve woken up with a brand new number echoing around my soul, sending me tumbling into obsession. And what does any film critic do when presented with fervent passion? They write about it…in depth.
So let’s have a little talk about The Greatest Showman soundtrack! All songs are written by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul.
(There may be mild spoilers!)
The Greatest Show
Book ending the film, this song is separated into two chunks: The dazzling open sequence that sees Jackman waiting to march onto the ring and then the development of the characters by the finale. It all sends one message: THIS IS THE GREATEST SHOW! (All the emphasis needed.) With lines such as “where the runaways are running the night,” the theme is already set for a raucous and terrific movie.]
A Million Dreams + Reprise
So usually children singers are sickly sweet additions to grown-up musicals. Here is not the case with the young Ziv Zaifman as kid Barnum proclaiming his love for his future wife Charity. When Zaifman leans into the epic chorus, he showcases his skill to emotively belt out meaning. In the soundtrack, he is overtaken by Hugh Jackman as he gets older, singing a duet Michelle Williams, and the song delicately twirls around like goodness in your soul.
Late, Barnum’s children sing a reprise which does teeter into high-pitch cutesy vocals but is a pleasant addition, especially in the context of the film.
So in the film. this song is used for a momentous montage: Barnum gord from dead exhibits to live “freaks” and performances. This song is used to coax people of all shapes and sizes out of the shadows to parade them for audiences. So, in the context of the film, it’s slightly exploitative. That is until it reaches the big dance number where it is a catchy array of choral voices that becomes so intensely brilliant that you’ll want to singalong, clapping your hands wildly in time.
The Other Side
A duet between Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman? Well, I’m sold. Yes trying to convince a foppish young actor that his skill is more suited to the brawling and bustling underworld of circus life has never been so snappy in this debate turned song. A great tête-à-tête in verse, The Other Side is accompanied by a stomping tap-dancing (that is so silky smooth throughout the bar,) and proving that Zac Efron can really wear a pair of trousers.
Never Enough + Reprise
Though Jenny Lind is portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson in the film, it is The Voice contestant Laura Allred as her singing voice. That being said, you couldn’t really tell the difference as Ferguson acts with enough gusto in a tragic song about being left alone by fame and fortune, wishing for a partner. The haunting and breath-taking solo song becomes more potent in the reprise but it’d be a spoiler to tell you why.
This Is Me
Dude, I’ve listened to this song every day. This is a song that made me bawl my goddamn eyes out. Think Christina Aguillera’s Beautiful but with more tempo and a dash of Fuck You! The song is about accepting yourself and your faults by screaming loudly This Is Me. Keala Settle plays Lettie Lutz, a bearded lady, who belts out the biggest middle finger of all time. It is goose-pimply, it’s inspiring, and it makes you want to throw your fist in the air. It is perfect.
Rewrite The Stars
What musical exists without a lover’s duet? That is exactly what Rewrite the Stars is. Sung by Zac Efron and Zendaya, it is about the song’s couple trapped by the circumstance of their era and trying to change it through their love. The visuals that match this are impeccable: A couple twisting through their situation through a series of rope tricks; skimming the ground and gliding across the air.
Often when you see actresses who have barely sung on screen try and perform in a musical number, you are left disappointed. Charity’s big solo number is helped by Michelle Williams’ great talent and delicacy when portraying her characters sadness. A great throwback to the circus theme, matching it with her marriage, this is a soft number for Williams and she is lovingly appealing here.
From Now On
The best song on the whole film. Honestly, there is not a second of this number that doesn’t fill your soul with absolute joy. As the song itself sings, it is like “an anthem in my heart.” It plays with a massive chorus and has an absolute build to an impressive chant you’ll be muttering under your breath for months to come. It’s Jackman’s ultimate vocal too as he progresses from lowly man to enthused again. It’s a wonderful collaborative track too that, when played on the film, will raise your hairs!