Monday, July 23, 2012

Featured Actress: Samantha Barks, the People’s Éponine

Theatre Credits include: Workshop of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies, Sally Bowles in Cabaret (Ben Kenwright tour), Aladdin in Aladdin (Theatre Royal, Windsor), Éponine in Les Misérables (Queen’s, Royal Varity Performance, Classic Brit Awards), Nancy in Oliver! (UK tour).
Concerts include: Peel Bay Festival, Direct From the West End, Theatergoers Choice Awards, An Audience with Sam Barks.
Film and Television include: I’d Do Anything televised search for Nancy in the 2009 London revival of Oliver! (third finalist), Éponine in Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary at the O2 Arena, Zoe in Disney Channel’s TV series Groove High, Éponine in Les Misérables directed by Tom Hooper opposite Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.
Recordings include: debut album Looking With Your Eyes, single Let Go, upcoming Les Misérables film soundtrack.

Awards include: Theatergoer's Choice Award (What's On for Les Misérables
A twenty-two-year-old actress from the Isle of Man shot to fame when she received the role of Éponine in the film adaption of Les Misérables, scheduled to be released in December 2012. The decision to cast Samantha Barks in the film was greeted with nearly unanimous approval from fans of the musical and big-name theatre actors alike. Frances Ruffelle, the original Éponine in the 1985 West End and 1987 Broadway original productions of Les Mis, encouraged the young actress when the casting announcement was made. Lea Salonga (a very famous former Éponine) who performed as Fantine alongside Barks in 2010 for the twenty-fifth anniversary of Les Mis at the O2 Arena, tweeted “Thank you, casting gods!” to Barks.
The decision to cast Barks in the Les Mis film was undoubtedly one of the best casting choices made in years. The role of Éponine was rumored to have been given to country singer Taylor Swift, but after a performance of the Oliver! UK tour in which Barks starred as Nancy, Cameron Mackintosh appeared at the curtain call to announce that Barks had landed the role of Éponine in the Les Mis film. After wrapping up performances in Oliver!, the actress left the tour to film the Les Mis movie in Greenwich. It was rumored Barks was to return to Oliver!, but the actress who replaced her, Cat Simmons, is scheduled to stay in the role until 2013. It is unknown if Barks will return to the Oliver! tour.
A trailer was released of the Les Mis film, one shot of the footage revealing Barks standing on an empty street in the pouring rain. A promotional image of the actress was also released of Barks on set of the film in full costume.
Barks recently announced that filming had finished of the movie, which was confirmed by her fellow costars. Her future plans have not been announced, but in 2008 Barks expressed interest in the role of Elphaba in the hit musical Wicked. As of 2012, nothing has been set, and Rachel Tucker still currently plays the role in the West End at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
Samantha Barks is the People’s Éponine. She was cast for, by, and is one of the people. She was cast for the people. With Taylor Swift out of the picture, more musical theatre fans will watch the film because Barks, a bona fide musical theatre actress, will play the iconic role of Éponine. She was cast by the people. Along the same lines, I believe that because of the controversy concerning Taylor Swift’s casting, the Les Mis movie directors may have decided to bring in Barks because she was already a favorite in the role. And she is one of the people. Many audience members can relate to Barks because her career has just begun, and she had to work to get the part. She did not get into this movie simply because she is famous, like Anne Hathaway or Hugh Jackman. Barks is not, at least by the world’s standards, very famous at all, especially when compared to some of her costars. Her career started the old-fashioned way – onstage in the West End. She’s worked hard to get where she is today, and she deserves it.
I personally believe that Samantha Barks has a very good chance of getting the role of Elphaba in the Wicked movie, scheduled to be released in 2013. The competition for this role will be fierce, as it was for Éponine, but Samantha Barks pulled through and landed the part in the Les Mis movie. I’m sure Glee’s Lea Michelle (who reportedly auditioned for Éponine) will fight for the part of Elphaba, but Samantha Barks has a good chance. I personally would love to see her in the stage version of Wicked, but having a recording of her performance as Elphaba (even if it wasn’t the stage version) would make up for it.
I’m definitely keeping my eye on Samantha Barks. She’s only twenty-two, but her star can only rise in years to come.
Samantha Barks on I’d Do Anything, singing Defying Gravity from Wicked, 2008
(feat. Idina Menzel) 

Samantha Barks’ departure from I’d Do Anything (third finalist), 2008
(feat. Jodie Prenger and Jessie Buckley)
Part 1 - Rehearsals for Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary at the O2 Arena, 2010
(feat. Alfie Boe, Norm Lewis, Lea Salonga, Matt Lucas, Jenny Galloway, Nick Jonas, Katie Hall, Samantha Barks, Ramin Karimloo, etc.)
Part 2 - Rehearsals for Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary at the O2 Arena, 2010
(feat. Alfie Boe, Norm Lewis, Lea Salonga, Matt Lucas, Jenny Galloway, Nick Jonas, Katie Hall, Samantha Barks, Ramin Karimloo, etc.)
Trailer for Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary at the O2, 2010
(feat. Alfie Boe, Norm Lewis, Lea Salonga, Matt Lucas, Jenny Galloway, Nick Jonas, Katie Hall, Samantha Barks, Ramin Karimloo, Colm Wilkinson, John Owen-Jones, Simon Bowman, the Original London Cast of Les Misérables, and a company of over 500)

Samantha Barks performing On My Own from Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary at the O2 Arena, 2010

Samantha Barks performing A Little Fall of Rain from Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary at the O2 Arena, 2010
(feat. Nick Jonas)

Samantha Barks performing a condensed version of On My Own at the Royal Variety Performance with the Les Misérables cast at the London Palladium, 2010
(feat. Alfie Boe, John-Owen Jones, Colm Wilkinson, and Simon Bowman)

Samantha Barks performing a condensed version of On My Own with the cast of Les Misérables at the Classic Brit Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, 2011
(feat. Alfie Boe, Hadley Fraser, Craig Mather, Lisa-Anne Wood, Liam Tamne, and the company of the Queen's Theatre)

Samantha Barks peforming A Little Fall of Rain at the Queen's Theatre, 2011
(feat. Gareth Gates)
Interview with Samantha Barks at the What's On Awards after winning a Theatergoer's Choice Award, 2011
(feat. Alfie Boe, Cameron Mackintosh, and Norm Lewis)

Samantha Barks performing as Nancy in the Oliver! UK Tour, 2011
(feat. Brian Conley and Ian Fletcher)

Samantha Barks performing as Nancy in the Oliver! UK Tour singing As Long As He Needs Me and As Long As He Needs Me (Reprise), 2011

Samantha Barks receiving the news from Cameron Mackintosh at a curtain call of Oliver! that she received the role of Éponine in the Les Misérables film, 2012
Images of Samantha Barks:
I'd Do Anything, 2008
I'd Do Anything, 2008
Les Misérables, Queen's Theatre, 2010
Les Misérables, Queen's Theatre, 2010
(with co-star Alistair Brammer)
Les Misérables, Queen's Theatre, 2010

Backstage at Les Misérables at the Queen's Theatre, 2010
 Outside the O2 Arena, during rehearsals for Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary, 2010

 During rehearsals for Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary, 2010
(with co-star Ramin Karimloo)
Backstage at the O2 Arena for Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary, 2010
(with co-star Katie Hall)
Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary at the O2 Arena, 2010 
Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary at the O2 Arena, 2010
Curtain call for Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary at the O2 Arena, 2010

Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary after-party
(with co-star Nick Jonas)
Les Misérables Royal Variety Show, 2010
The Classic Brit Awards, 2011
Samantha Barks at the Classic Brit Awards, 2011 
(with co-star Alfie Boe)
Samantha Barks at the Classic Brit Awards, 2011
(with co-star Alfie Boe)

Classic Brit Awards, 2011
Oliver! UK Tour, 2011
Oliver! UK Tour, 2011
(with co-star Ian Fletcher)
Oliver! UK Tour, 2011
 Backstage at the Oliver! 2011 UK Tour after the announcement that Samantha Barks would be in the 2012 Les Misérables film
(with producer Cameron Mackintosh)
Les Misérables film, 2012 
Les Misérables film, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Why Ramin Karimloo Should Open the New 2012 Toronto Les Mis

Though postponed, it has been announced that the epic Les Misérables, one of the world’s longest running shows, is to have a sit-down production in Toronto, Canada. The US tour of Les Mis, beginning in 2010 to celebrate twenty-five years of production in London, will end in Toronto to a sit-down theatre, though the date is undetermined. This show has not been in North America since 2008, when the Broadway revival closed.

Many outstanding Les Misers have gone through the show in North America, though not all were Americans. Colm Wilkinson transferred from London to New York to reprise his role of Jean Valjean, joined by Frances Ruffelle as Éponine (original in London). Judy Kuhn and Michael Maguire were discovered, originating Cosette and Enjolras on Broadway, and both were subsequently chosen for the famous ten-year anniversary in London at the Royal Albert Hall. Lea Salonga returned to Les Mis to play Fantine on Broadway, and was chosen four years later in the same role for the twenty-fifth anniversary production of Les Mis at the O2 Arena. Norm Lewis joined as Javert at the Broadhurst, and would later play the role in London and in Les Mis 25. Judy Kuhn also returned to play Fantine during the revival in 2007. John Owen-Jones even graced the Broadhurst stage as Jean Valjean, performing at the Queen’s Theatre for years and in the famous re-imagined UK tour.

The US tour cast was chosen carefully, with the knowledge in mind of the show’s immense popularity and the length of its absence. Chaston Harmon and Andrew Valera have been with the tour since it began in 2010, the only two cast members to do so in this particular tour. The first black Jean Valjean, Laurence Clayton, was in the tour, and was succeeded by J. Mark McVey, who won an award for his performance. They were joined by many other highly talented actors, including Justin Scott Brown, Jenny Latimer, Jeremy Hays, Betsy Morgan, Michael Kostroff, and Shawna M. Hamic, among others.

With such a plethora of talent, it is only natural that careful scrutiny will be used when casting the first sit-down production North America has seen in four years. And who better to re-originate the role of Jean Valjean than Toronto’s own Ramin Karimloo, who was (and still is) a standout favorite in London in the same role?

Technically, Karimloo is not a native Canadian (he’s from Iran), but he grew up in Toronto. After moving to London, he began his musical theatre career in the West End, quickly rising to become known as the West End’s leading man. He performed in Miss Saigon as Chris, and as Marius and Enjolras in Les Mis, both at the Queen’s Theatre, and was chosen as Enjolras for the twenty-fifth anniversary of Les Mis at the O2 Arena. He played Raoul against John Owen-Jones as Her Majesty’s Theatre, and won an award for his four-year long stint as the Phantom, originated the role of the Phantom in the sequel Love Never Dies, and performed in the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall to critical acclaim.

He most recently returned to the Queen’s Theatre as Jean Valjean to overwhelming appreciation, taking over from Alfie Boe, and Karimloo extended his run at the Queen’s by three weeks due to popular demand. An American composer, Scott Alan, was so impressed by Karimloo’s performance in Phantom 25 that he is currently writing a musical, ‘Iona,’ specifically for Karimloo and his two co-stars in Phantom 25, Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser.

Clearly, Karimloo is no stranger to Les Mis or the role of Jean Valjean. He has already received overwhelming appreciation for his performance in the role in London, and audiences are desperately hoping that he will return to Toronto to do Les Mis. His interpretation of the role is completely unique and sheds new light on the character which many thought had been explored to its fullest extent over the past twenty-seven years.

Casting Karimloo would bring audiences to Toronto solely for the purpose of seeing his performance. For fans living in North America of the show and of Karimloo, Toronto is more accessible than London. The draw that the show will have a sit-down theatre in North America at all is huge, but having Karimloo as Jean Valjean would draw even more audiences in.

All in all, it would be a very good move to cast Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean in the Toronto production of Les Misérables. Audiences are already clamoring for his return to Toronto in the role, and he was majorly successful in the role in London. With Les Mis finally getting a sit-down theatre in North America for the first time in four years, adding Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean would make the pull even stronger.

Bring Ramin home!

Footage and Recordings of Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean:
2012 London Trailer
Bring Him Home - 2012 London
One Day More - 2012 London
(feat. Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean, Hadley Fraser as Javert, Craig Mather as Marius, Lisa-Anne Wood as Cosette, Alexia Khadime as Éponine, Cameron Blakley as Thénardier, Katy Secombe as Madame Thénardier, Caroline Sheen as Fantine)

Images of Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean:


 Hadley Fraser and Ramin Karimloo


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Featured Video: The Phantom of the Opera UK Tour

The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary re-imagined UK Tour, starring John Owen-Jones, Katie Hall, and Simon Bailey.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The In-Between - A New Musical

I have recently discovered a new musical, The In-Between by Laura Tisdall, about a girl who goes through the wrong door and finds herself in a place in between worlds. The In-Between, or TIB, has never been staged, but there is a concept album available on the website  (, on iTunes, and on YouTube. Instead of having one actor sing one specific character throughout the album, as would be in an official recording, Laura Tisdall asked nine West End stars to lend their voices to the concept album. Cassandra Compton, Sabrina Aloueche, Lauren Samuels and Alexia Khadime sing the part of Flick Wimple. Diane Pilkington and Julie Atherton sing the part of Alice Wimple, and Daniel Boys, Hadley Fraser and Liam Tamne sing the part of Calicus.
Hadley Fraser truly shines in Beyond the Door. If you listen to only one song from the TIB album, listen to this. I’ve always loved Hadley, but he is outstanding in Beyond the Door as Calicus, a Guide in the In-Between. Alexia Khadime stands out in the duet Not Alone as Flick, an underachieving teenager, and Julie Atherton gives a stunning performance in When I Was Nineteen as Alice, the older sister having to raise Flick after their parents died.
Laura Tisdall has said that she is trying to find a producer for TIB. If I was in charge of casting, my dream original cast would be Alexia Khadime as Flick, Julie Atherton as Alice, and Hadley Fraser as Calicus. After that cast, I would like to see Lauren Samuels as Flick after Alexia in the first replacement cast, Diane Pilkington as Alice after Julie, and Liam Tamne as Calicus after Hadley.
Hadley Fraser and Alexia Khadime are leaving Les Misérables this summer, to be replaced by Tam Mutu as Javert after Hadley and Danielle Hope as Éponine after Alexia. (Tam and Danielle better give the performance of their lives to follow Hadley and Alexia) As saddening as this news is about Alexia and Hadley leaving, there is hope that this means they are going to TIB to originate the roles of Flick and Calicus. This is just speculation on my part, but I’m praying at least Hadley does TIB.
The music in TIB is amazing. It sucks you right in from the opening notes, especially in ‘Beyond the Door.’ If you love theatre, listen to the TIB album. It has all the makings of the next big show. It may not be the next Wicked, but it’s close.


I have an obsession with musical theatre. My top three favorite shows are Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, and Wicked, in that order. I also love Oliver!, West Side Story, The Little Mermaid (yes, it is a Broadway show), In The Heights, Mary Poppins, Mamma Mia!, Cats, Beauty and the Beast, Godspell, and generally anything Rogers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Stephen Shwartz, or Andrew Lloyd Webber (for the most part).
I am infatuated with the stage version of The Phantom of the Opera, even the condensed Las Vegas production. Phantom 25 was out of this world amazing. The 10th anniversary of Les Misérables is my favorite cast ever, but the 25th anniversary comes a close second. My favorite actors at the moment are Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, Hadley Fraser, Samantha Barks, Kerry Ellis, John Owen-Jones, Aaron Tveit, Katie Hall, and Karen Olivo. I have an account on ( Please read my work, if you have time.  
I hope you enjoy browsing through my blog, Another Story Must Begin!