Monday, January 14, 2013

On My Own by Samantha Barks (from Les Misérables)


Like the Edward, Jacob and Bella debate, the Internet erupted in a similar Eponine, Cosette and Marius discussion with the release of the film version of Les Misérables (which I discussed in this earlier post).

Okay, actually there really wasn’t really much of that but I wish there was.

The story of Cosette, Eponine and Marius could be made into a musical or film by itself. Cosette was raised by Eponine’s corrupt parents. As children, Eponine was treated well as Cosette was basically treated like a slave. Cosette sing the heartbreaking “Castle On The Cloud,” song as she dreams of a better life.

Then things flip around dramatically. Cosette gets taken away by Jean Valjean and is raised in luxury while Eponine stays with her parents and is raised on the streets. While Cosette lives in wealth and comfort, Eponine is subject to helping her parents in a life of crime.

Eponine pines after her friend Marius, who then falls in love with Cosette and the once fascinating character becomes an infatuated lover without any true depth (and no interesting songs in the second half).  Eponine's story comes forth as one of the most powerful and tragic parts of the musical.

This turn occurs with the song “On My Own.”

So much talk around Les Misérables is focused on Anne Hathaways’s portrayal of Fatine and her performance of “I Dreamed A Dream,” and its well deserved, however Samantha Bark’s Eponine and virtuosic “On My Own,” is just as amazing and deserves as much fanfare.

Samantha Bark’s was discovered on the BBC talent show, I’d Do Anything in 2008. She went on to play Eponine in the London production of Les Misérables and played this part in the 2010, 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables.

She did this part on Broadway and did the jump to the film which is a challenging thing to do as the different mediums require very different skills.

She’s the real deal.

“On My Own,” is a self-reflective and conflicted song full of hope and the harsh realities of life. The song opens with Eponine fantasizing about being with Marius. The world seems beautiful and magical as she lives in this fantasy and Bark’s eye light up as she sings the words, “on my own,” as only her solitude can bring her the joy of this fantasy.

She almost giggles with the lyrics “he has found me.” There’s a teenage-like glee in her voice, but also a dark maturity. In many ways she has been forced to grow up but there is still this girl inside of her.

Then reality sets in. In the middle of the songs, Eponine shakes off the fantasy and she tells herself the truth about Marius and her own life. She hold sback tears as she angrily beats herself down as she sings “talking to my self. . . ” but somehow she feels that there is still hope.

She is renewed with the words, “I love him,” but that is quickly dashed away.  The world that once seemed magical, is nothing special, “the river is just a river.” The song climaxes, not with hope, but with sadness of a spirit unfulfilled. By the end of the song the words “on my own,” are no longer a place to find happiness, but a curse, because only on her own can love Marius.

Barks does a remarkable job of hitting the variety of emotions in this song and taking the audience on a journey. We get a sense that her love for Marius is not some teenage infatuation but the representation of something more. Marius is Eponine's hope for a better life, a way out of her misery and for Cosette is something very different.

What Eponine ends up doing for Marius is heart-breaking. Barks’ portrays her Eponine's final moments in the film beautifully creating the most powerful death scene in the film (spoiler: everyone in Les Misérables dies).

Reconsider Samantha Barks.  She's a young, talented singer and actress who has an incredible potential.

Maybe it's not so much that I'm on TEAM EPONINE, but rather TEAM SAMANTHA!

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