September 27, 2008

Why Life is a Cabaret for Samantha

When I'd Do Anything hopeful Samantha Barks met American diva Liza Minnelli during the making of the BBC TV programme, little did she know that she would soon be taking on the screen star's greatest role.

Because, although Samantha lost out on the part of Nancy that contestants in the TV show were fighting for, she impressed so much that she was awarded the lead role in Cabaret.

She plays Kit Kat Club singer Sally Bowles in the musical which turns Weimar Berlin of 1931 into a sassy, sizzling haven of decadence. It was the all-singing, all-dancing role that bagged Minnelli an Oscar for her performance in the 1972 film version.

Samantha says: "Cabaret is one of my favourite shows ever and Sally Bowles is such a great part to play. Having met Liza Minnelli during the filming of I'd Do Anything, I'm beside myself with excitement. To meet and work with her and then land this part is incredible. She knows the character inside out and everything she said to me at the time now makes so much sense.

"But it wouldn't do for me to do a Liza Minnelli take on it and the way she played her in the film was very different from how the stage musical was written as the storyline slightly changed. Obviously she was absolutely incredible but you have to do your own thing."

Samantha will always be grateful, however, for her TV break. "I learned so much from doing the programme," she says. "All the coaches we had worked so hard and were so talented."

Samantha was many people's favourite to win I'd Do Anything but her age (she's not quite 18) eventually counted against her.

"I wasn't too disappointed in the end," she says. "A lot of good things have happened."

The support for her during the TV show's run was most ardent in her home base, The Isle of Man.

"They called it the Isle of Sam for a few weeks," she says. "I was shocked and flattered from going from a nobody to a somebody.

"And the show has immediately opened doors for me. I was just eager to get out there and the show has enabled me to do all the things I dreamed of."

Cabaret also stars Wayne Sleep as Emcee, reprising the role he played in the acclaimed 1986 West End production. And it will be a coming-of-age for Samantha in more ways than one.

"It's my 18th birthday on October 2," she says. "I'll still be doing the show but I'm sure I'll be celebrating with the cast afterwards."

Nigel Powlson

Cabaret is at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham from Monday to October 4. Tickets: pounds13-pounds33. Call: 0115 989 5555.

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