Wednesday, 10 January 2018

This Barnum Hokum Aint't Humdrum, Has Momentum!

In the Christmas hols, we went to the cinema in Norwich with Adrian and Marion [my bro and SIL]
I'd left it too late to catch the Orient Express, so we opted for The Greatest Showman instead.
This film bills itself as 'inspired by' the life of PTBarnum - he of the three ringed circus, Little Tom Thumb, George Washington's Nanny et al.
It is a musical, and it stars Hugh Jackman, who does very well imho. It is a cheerful romp, lots of jolly music, rather contemporary dancing, and lots of CGI [circus elephants etc]
But it does play fast and loose with the facts.
You have to decide- if you want strict historical accuracy, then stay away. If you want a family friendly afternoon, with no sex or swearing, and magic and sparkle and singing, then this will do you fine.
You can read a couple of relatively positive reviews here and here - both of which acknowledge that the film doe snot set out to portray facts, but to provide entertainment. Which, after all, is what PT Barnum himself did.
Marion and I were particularly interested in the part of the film where Barnum comes to England to meet Queen Victoria, and meets Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale" who was a gifted singer who had been touring Europe. 
He takes her back to the States for a tour there. It does go pear shaped, and she breaks her contract with him. In the film, there are suggestions of romance- in fact it was more that she was unhappy with his promotional style. 
Our interest was sparked by the fact that Miss Lind wherever performed her concerts, she always gave away a high proportion of her income to charity.
Just prior to going off to America, she had performed in Norwich. The monies raised there she gave specifically for the provision of a children's hospital.
The Jenny Lind Children's Hospital, opened in 1854, was only the second children's hospital in the UK, after Great Ormond Street which had opened 2 years earlier.
I enjoyed the film - as Marion said, it would make a good stage musical [not sure how you'd get the elephants in!] but it has sparked my interest in the real Barnum.
There was a lot more to him than his circus acts. He was a shrewd businessman, a self-promoter, and convinced of his own genius. He believed 'there's a sucker born every minute'
There is nothing new under the sun...
I rate this one ***


  1. Barnum, starring Michael Crawford, was the very first West End musical I ever saw, back in the 80s. My husband took me, when we were courting :-)

    1. That's a lovely story! The 'Barnum' musical came out in 1980 on Broadway, then came to London in 1981 where it ran for 655 performances. Last month, the first London Revival began at the Meniere Chocolate Factory Theatre, and is due to run until March. I think it looks at some different aspects of the story, including his foray into politics etc. I think that Michael Crawford, like Hugh Jackman is a very talented performer in musicals. It is a shame that many people only think of them as Frank Spencer and Wolverine!

  2. Thanks for the review, Angela. I saw the stage musical so wasn’t really attracted to the film. Hugh Jackman was amazing in Les Mis film so I’ll wait for the DVD and see the film then. In fact, I have lots of little tasks to be doing this morning so I’ll pop Les Mis soundtrack on and have a listen while I work. Catriona

  3. Factual doe snot! Your typo made me giggle.
    Do you recommend seeing the film on the big screen or would regular telly work as well? I'm tempted to see it at the cinema x

    1. I was going to correct the typo after I read your comment, but left it in for the laugh. I think this film is probably more enjoyable on the big screen simply because the whole thing is larger-than-life [with the exception of the Tom Thumb character, of course]

  4. I'm intrigued. I've never seen the original Barnum show though I know some of the songs. I know Jenny Lind because we had a song competition named after her I think when I worked at the RAM.x

  5. Know OF her...not actually know her!

    1. I didn't think you were THAT old, Kezzie!

  6. Thanks for your review and the info regarding Jenny Lind. I've been interested in her since having my appendix out and spending a week in The Jenny Lind Hospital as an 8 year old.


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