While writing and procrastinating, I decided to have a midnight snack-like Youtube break. Guiding my choices was the overjoyed news that Taylor Swift will no longer play Eponine in Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables and is replaced by stage vet and Nick Jonas’ girlfriend Samantha Barks. She, by the way, joined a elimination-style reality show called “I’d Do Anything” years back, the show’s objective being to find a singer/actress to play Nancy in a West End revival for the musical “Oliver.” She can sing all right, effortlessly making her voice go to eleven without moving a muscle away from her smile. But during results show performances she’s always a kicker or a bridge, letting the other contestants out-act or out-sass her, and the same goes during the sing offs. Had this been a Tyra show, she’d been out during the middle of the show for being ‘boring.’
Then my search veered into the missions the contestants had to do to understand Nancy, some of which involved behaving like Nancy. Now let’s see if the woman can act. Sometimes she just stands there but mostly she has a confident presence, which isn’t the same thing as strong. In some challenge she doesn’t show fear or, on the clip below, weakness, when she’s supposed to. I have faith for her in drama, I just hope shoe doesn’t revert to her early days. But she’s made progress in three years with her voice breaking as the perma-anguished Eponine as part of the 25th anniversary Les Mis concert. Despite her voice, she admits to not being a perfect actress. That’s one out of two, better than Swift’s batting average.
I’m a “Les Mis” noob and a musical noob, so don’t take the bad parts of this post seriously. In a time of rock and cabaret musicals, it’s kind of refreshing to have a traditional musical like “Les Mis.”
Marius (Nick Jonas) sings a stanza or two and Eponine (Samantha Barks) belts out one line and blows him out of the arena. Although Jonas can sing if he’s alone on stage. Did you know that she was on a reality TV show before this? Also, I like her Eponine even if that means its treasonous to like her rendition’s over national treasure Lea Salonga. Barks’ Eponine is melancholy and mature while Salonga’s Eponine fifteen years ago had this childlike glow but singing as if she’s already fleeting away.
Before I get to Salonga I keep thinking about how many fangirls are there who are on team Eponine. There are a handful of supporting characters in a musical dignified with “It’s my song about dramatic solitude/before I exit and go to craft services/And ignore insignificant bit players….” But the sweeping notes and poetry of ‘On My Own,’ ‘A Little Fall of Rain’ or even Fantine’s ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ trump some of the leads’ songs.
Speaking which, I do like Salonga as Fantine. If she is singing lower because of age, that doesn’t stop her emotion from pouring into the songs. She’s best when admitting about her daughter Cosette (Katie Hall) to the Foreman, or showing her hatred while immersed in the world’s oldest profession. She gets cool points for playing the latter. The book for this musical’s very angry, emo and sad even for my mom, and thankfully the score balances most of the anger out.
Either way, I’m hooked on the musical now. There’s a greenlit film version scheduled for a 2013 release. I guess they have to get stars to play Valjean, Javert and Cosette, but Barks and Salonga better be there, Heck, you can put Jonas in the movie version too. Also, if you have YouTube clips to prove me wrong about who is the best who, go ahead.