The Greatest Showman

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Many months ago, I discovered a YouTube trailer for an upcoming Hugh Jackman film. This immediately caught my attention. The YouTube movie trailer was for a musical movie called The Greatest Showman. Musical films aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea. I didn’t grow up watching musicals. My appreciation for musical productions didn’t form until eleven years ago. Back in January 2006, High School Musical film debuted on Disney Channel. I’d grown up watching Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) since my pre-teen years. Little did I realize how High School Musical movie franchise would form a longtime love for the musicals over the next eleven years.

I’ve been an immensely huge fan of Hugh Jackman’s career since I discovered the nerdtastically amazing X-men trilogy in 2006. I have no shame admitting how I’ll watch any TV show or movie starring certain bias actors. Hugh Jackman is one of the actors on this elite list. Many including myself will always associate Hugh Jackman as Wolverine aka James Logan. But I’ve seen majority of the movies in Hugh Jackman’s filmography. It proves he is an incredibly talented and versatile actor. On top of it, Hugh has a wonderfully amazing personality. This is quite evident when you watch his press junket interviews. I have absolutely no shame admitting to being obsessed with Hugh Jackman. Honestly, I’ve loved this man since I was 13. My love for him has exponentially grown over the years.

Very few of my favorite actors have a musical theater background. Let alone can sing and dance well. This is a very short list in fact. Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, and Zachary Levi. I learned each of these actors had pretty awesome singing and/or dancing abilities in surprising ways.

I’ve always known Hugh Jackman as an incredibly versatile actor. In 2009, he hosted the 81st Academy Awards. He performed a musical number at the beginning of the award show. I recall blinking at the television screen for several minutes in total shock. Until that point, I had no idea Hugh had a background in musical theater.

On random whim, I decided to watch Moulin Rough starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. Being a massive Star Wars fan, Evan is well-known for his role as young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequels. I honestly had no idea what to expect when watching Moulin Rouge. But I had no clue it would be a heartbreaking musical film. Thanks to this movie, I learned Evan McGregor had a good singing voice. I’ve never saw him the same way many years later. In a good way.

Back in September 2007, I randomly changed channels and tuned into NBC channel. I normally didn’t venture here. I was quite biased to either The CW or ABC channels around this time. I randomly stumbled across NBC’s new spy dramedy called Chuck on September 24, 2007. In fact, this was the day of its series premiere. (Side note: Chuck was created by Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak. Josh Schwartz is well known creating teen dramas series such as Fox’s The OC and The CW’s Gossip Girl.) Chuck’s quirky concept piqued my curiosity. I was hooked by the end of the pilot episode. NBC’s Chuck was a guilty pleasure obsession show. Not enough words can begin to describe why I adored this TV show. I would devotedly continue watching NBC’s Chuck until its series finale on January 27, 2012. Chuck was my official introduction to much-lesser known and vastly underrated actor Zachary Levi. Levi played the main role of Chuck Bartowski. Many people now know him best for his role of of Flynn Rider in Disney’s Tangled. Honestly, nothing could have mentally prepared for how pretty his singing voice is. I legit cried happy tears during the scene where “I See The Light” song was duet song between Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.

First Date Musical posterZach made his official Broadway debut with First Date musical. This off-Broadway musical ran from July 2013 to January 2014 at Longacre Theatre. My college had a NYC Broadway excursion trip in fall of 2013. First Date was the selected Broadway musical for this NYC excursion. The day of this trip finally arrived. I was exuberantly buzzing with excitement on the 4-hour bus ride to New York City. First Date musical is about a blind date between two polar opposites, Aaron and Casey, in present-day New York City. I really enjoyed it this off-Broadway musical. Three years later, Zachary Levi returned to Broadway in She Loves Me revival. Drastically different from First Date. She Loves Me takes place in 1934 Budapest. The main characters. Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash are secret pen plans who wind up working in the same perfumery shop. They initially butt heads frequently at work but slowly realize they have feelings for each other…and are actually each other’s pen pals. Zachary plays the lead role of Georg Nowack. I’d honestly see any Broadway musical starring Zachary in the main cast ensemble. He is a very versatile actor with a lovable nerdy personality as well. Thanks to NBC’s Chuck, I formed an immense appreciation for Zachary Levi over the years. He is one of my beloved bias actors.

Not everyone likes musicals regardless of what form they come in. TV show, film, school production, New York City Broadway, and London West End Broadway to name a few. I attended many of musical productions in high school and college. I don’t have acting chops. Nope. My talents lie in freelance writing and recreational singing. But I can appreciate a well executed musical production. In terms of professional live musicals, I’ve seen a total of four musicals. Three in New York City Broadway and one in London West End Broadway. First Date, She Loves Me, Bend It Like Beckham, and Kinky Boots. Most of the musicals I’ve seen have been in full-feature film forms rather than TV show form. I especially enjoy seeing musicals of different genres. Yet, most of the musicals I’ve ever seen have some sort of happy ending for the main character(s). Of all the musicals I’ve seen, Les Misérables film adaptation was the most depressing musical of them all. I still have different reasons for why I enjoyed a particular musical.

TGS poster

The Greatest Showman took seven years of development before this musical film was finally released into theaters. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul penned the lyrics for the songs. This film was a passion project for Hugh Jackman, who was cast as title role back in 2009. The main cast ensemble includes Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Williams, and Zac Efron. Michelle and Zac were only joined the main cast in summer 2016. Zac Efron hadn’t been in a musical film project since High School Musical trilogy and Hairspray in 2007. Hugh Jackman hadn’t done a musical film project since Les Miserable in 2012. There’s a plethora of incredibly talented actors among the minor cast ensemble.

The Greatest Showman is an original musical based on the life of P.T. Barnum. The birth of the show business through the visionary ambitions of Phineas Taylor Barnum. Yes, this original musical film took drastic artistic liberty how they portrayed Barnum’s character. The Greatest Showman essentially humanizes P.T. Barnum’s character for the sake of the plot arc.

I do enjoy historical period films every once in a while, regardless of its genre. The Greatest Showman takes place between early to mid-1800s. The costumes in this film were amazing. Every main and supporting character had their own style that complimented their personality. I love how historical period films gives us a glimpse how life was centuries ago. An entirely different perspective from modern-day life.

TGS_1The Greatest Showman took artistic liberties in terms of adding character who never existed in the actual historical narrative. The characters Anne Wheeler and Phillip Carlyle were created for the film. Anne Wheeler is a trapeze artist and acrobat. Her and brother, W.D. Wheeler, were both acrobats in P.T. Barnum’s troupe of performers. Phillip Carlyle is a well-known playwright among the elite upper class. Phillip grew up in a wealthy family. Of course, he is comfortable in this posh crowd. P.T. Barnum asked Phillip Carlyle to join his risky yet exciting business venture. This is how Barnum plans on bettering his reputation among the upper class. The film explores the controversial interracial romance between Anne Wheeler and Phillip Carlyle. Neither can deny their attraction for each other. At the end of the movie, he stops letting his upper-class breeding stop him from enjoying life and take some risks in life regardless if is conventional by society.

This film is full of heart and soul as it shows the internal struggle among P.T. Barnum and the other characters. The Greatest Showman is about personal growth and a journey of self-discovery. P.T. Barnum was an enterprising man yet he unintentionally created a new family for his unique troupe of performers. The original songs beautifully capture the emotional depth of the scenes. The songs make you laugh and cry. Also, the dance choreography for the musical numbers are incredible. Every song on the film’s soundtrack is amazing in its own way. The cast ensemble takes great pride in this challenging film project.

No surprise I absolutely loved The Greatest Showman. I shed tears of laughter, joy, and sorrow throughout the film. Hugh Jackman and the cast ensemble didn’t fail to deliver an incredibly heartwarming movie. I saw this movie around Christmas time, but I definitely plan on watching it again in theaters. I actually watched it again this past weekend. It took seven years before finally hitting the big screen, yet it was so worth the wait. If you’re a fan of musicals, I highly recommend seeing The Greatest Showman. This is a great film for the whole family!

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Kinky Boots

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve visited New York City. There’s always something to do. Plenty of touristy attractions for all age groups. I’ve been to NYC at different times of busy tourist seasons. Summer and fall/winter seasons. The warmer seasons allows me to do more venturing around the city compared to colder season. All my NYC adventures are memorable in their own way. But my most recent trip is special for its own reason.

It isn’t often that my celebrity biases have taken time away from their TV/movie or music careers to take on Broadway. In general, Broadway doesn’t pay as much. The person must have a strong passion to pursue a Broadway musical project.

First Date Musical posterIn October 2013, Messiah College Student Activity Board (SAB) had a NYC Broadway excursion to see the off-Broadway musical First Date. I normally never went on any SAB excursion to NYC. This trip was sold out but our campus radio was giving away two tickets. I was lucky to win one of the two tickets. So why was I so keen on going? Zachary Levi from NBC’s Chuck joined the main cast ensemble of this off-Broadway musical. In fact, he was making his Broadway debut in First Date. I was obsessed with NBC’s Chuck. This action-comedy/ spy-drama TV show was nerdtastically bad-ass! This was my main motivation for attending this SAB NYC Broadway excursion. Thankfully colleges can get group rates when they plan Broadway trips. So, I was going to take advantage of this opportunity.

She Loves Me Musical posterIn March 2016, Zachary Levi returned to Broadway for She Loves Me revival musical. Last spring my local community college had a New York City day trip. Obviously, I had made another trip to New York City mainly to see this off-Broadway musical. I even had opportunity to meet Zachary Levi backstage after She Loves Me performance. He autographed the playbill and took a photo with me. First Date and She Loves Me musicals helped to form a deeper appreciation of him as an actor. Zachary Levi is a versatile actor.

Bend It Like Beckham musical poserIn June 2015, my family and I were travelling to London, England for vacation. I stumbled across some interesting information a few weeks before this trip. I’d been going through a Jamie Campbell Bower movie and TV show marathon during the last two months of my senior year of college. Jamie’s Wikipedia page mentioned he would be participating in London’s West End musical production of Bend It Like Beckham. This musical was based off the 2002 film. In fact, the film’s writer and director, Gurinder Chadha, penned the script for the stage musical as well. I’ve seen Bend It Like Beckham movie at least 15 times over the past decade. Thankfully, it didn’t take much convincing to convince my family to check out this West End musical while we were in London. Best of all, I had opportunity to meet Jamie Campbell Bower backstage after Bend It Like Beckham performance. He autographed the musical playbill and took a photo with me. I feel so lucky to have met some of my favorite celebrity biases.

Couple months ago, some exciting news regarding Panic! at the Disco popped up online and social media platforms. P!ATD’s frontman, Brendon Urie, would be making his Broadway debut in Kinky Boots musical. Of course, I had to find a way to make another trip to New York City to see it. I’ve been a longtime fan of Panic! at the Disco’s music over the past six years. Plus, I saw them in concert in August 2014 and September 2015. This Broadway musical had gotten great reviews. I had no doubt it will be a good musical.

Kinky Boots was my first  main street Broadway musical. First Date and She Loves Me are technically off-Broadway musicals. Brendon was my main motivation to see Kinky Boots musical. But I do really enjoy musicals in general.

The bus pulled into New York City around early afternoon. Thankfully, the hotel was nearby the Kinky Boots theater venue. I had time to meander around the city before the 8 o’clock evening performance. I specifically wore my new Panic! at the Disco tee for this performance.

Al Hirschfield Theatre is in midtown Manhattan. This theater is within close vicinity of other main street Broadway musical venues. Yet, the Al Hirschfield Theatre is a fairly small venue. The seating capacity is around 1,400 persons. My seat was very close to the stage. Orchestra section on the right side in the first section of seating. End of the second row. No joke my seat was right by the stage. I was right there where all the action was. No complaining about this incredible view of the stage. According to Ticketmaster, it says it is a partial view seat. Lies. I had a fantastic perspective of the whole stage!

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Kinky Boots posterKinky Boots musical revolves around the character, Charlie Price. He is a fourth generation son in his family’s shoe factory business. After his father’s untimely death, Charlie inherits the shoe factor which is near bankruptcy. Now he must find a way to save the family business. A creative business solution comes in the form of an unlikely partnership with cabaret performer and drag queen, Lola. He plans to reinvent Price and Son brand by producing a line of comfortable high-heel boots which can even withstand a man’s weight. Charlie and Lola’s unconventional business partnership helped them realize they aren’t so different after all. Kinky Boots officially debuted on Broadway on April 4, 2014. J.Harrison Ghee replaced Toderick Hall as Lola in March 2017. Brendon Urie replaced Killian Donnelly as Charlie Price in May 2017.

Cyndi Lauper wrote the music and lyrics for Kinky Boots. Many know Lauper because to her hit song “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”. In fact, Kinky Boots was her debut as musical theater songwriter. The song numbers in this musical have emphasis on father-son relationships but also has overarching themes of tolerance and self-acceptance.

Kinky Boots is an eccentric Broadway musical full of heart and soul. I definitely got feels during the performance. Laughter and tears. There’s a great balance in serious and comedic tones within the dialogue and songs. Honestly, I love all the songs in Kinky Boots. Mixture of infectiously catchy and pensive ballad numbers. They’re all incredible in their own ways. Although, some songs stand out for me. “Land of Lola”, “Sex is in the Heel”, “Not My Father’s Son”, “What A Woman Wants”, “Soul of a Man”, “Hold Me in your Heart”, and “Raise You Up/ Just Be”. You’ll be tapping your foot, clapping your hands, and dancing in your seat by the last song of the performance. I had a huge grin plastered on my face at the end of the performance.

Being his musical debut, Brendon did an amazing job as Charlie Price. He still has room to improve his acting skills. Nonetheless, he still brilliantly brought his character to life on the stage. It never ceases to amaze me how Brendon makes singing look so effortless. He is a lovable ball of energy and explosive charisma. On and off stage. He pulled off a decent British accent for this role too. (Side note: It was a bit odd seeing him in a buttoned-up shirt and khaki pants. I got so used to him wearing skinny jeans, casual tee, and leather jacket. For concerts, Brendon even wears bold colored suit ensemble. He is typically shirtless the last half of concert performances.)

The whole cast ensemble of Kinky Boots had phenomenal chemistry. Most of all, J. Harrison and Brendon worked so well together. It is essential the main roles have good chemistry. This can make or break a musical, movie, and TV show. J.Harrison Ghee vastly impressed me. His acting skills and mannerism make you quickly love the character of Lola. Lola and her troupe of drag queens (also referred to as “angels”) were my favorite characters in Kinky Boots musical.

I waited until the last bow from the cast ensemble before heading to the stage door. (Side note: It’s plain rude to leave before the last bow. You don’t have to be a seasoned Broadway musical attendee to know this fact. It’s assumed courtesy.) There was a massive crowd around the stage door in front of the Al Hirschfield Theatre. Not surprising at all. Most people were waiting for Brendon Urie. Brendon was my main motivation to see Kinky Boots. Yet, a success performance on a daily basis rests on the talent and harmony of the whole crew and cast ensemble. Based off the online comments on social media, this wasthe first Broadway musical for majority of Panic! at the Disco fans attending Kinky Boots performances. I love how celebrities can help expose their fan base to other entertainment forms. The group of P!ATD fans around me came from far away states and even Canada for Kinky Boots musical.

The crowd worked together to ensure people’s musical playbills got signed by the cast members who took time to interact with the awaiting fans. The noise level drastically increased when security announced Brendon was coming out soon. All the other crew and cast members had already left the theater. There was much demand for Brendon’s autograph. But I persisted and politely weaved through the now slowly dwindling crowd. Brendon did his best to sign all the playbill musicals shoved in his face. Plus, people were screaming for selfies with him. I managed to find a spot close enough to pass over my two Kinky Boots playbills for Brendon to easily reach it. Brendon signed both playbills! My heart exploded with joyous fangirl feels when I saw his signatures on them. Plus, a tall girl nearby me offered to take some overhead pictures of Brendon before he got into his car. The pictures turned out surprisingly good. I waited almost 1.5 hours but it was so worth the leg cramp from all the standing. I didn’t come that far only to give up. That’s the closest I’ll get to “meeting” Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie.

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img_1902Brendon Urie will be playing the role of Charlie Price in Kinky Boots Broadway musical until August 6, 2017. Thankfully, Brendon not his understudy was in the June 16th performance.  He was my main motivation to check out Kinky Boots musical. I’d highly recommend this Broadway musical. Yet I don’t recommend this musical for any children under 15. It’s a fun time. You won’t regret it. Kinky Boots’ overall message is to find your true potential. Become the person you want to be rather than the person others want you to be.

I’ll leave you with a clip of Kinky Boots cast performing “Everybody Say Yeah” musical number on the Tony Awards in 2013.