Saw it. Loved it. Cried a lot. Now I can’t stop comparing.

My sister and I saw Les Miserables over the weekend. If you’re planning to see it, A) make sure you like musicals, and B) make sure you really like musicals, because it is literally over two and a half hours of singing. I only say this because some people seem not to have gotten the message that this film is a direct adaptation of the Broadway musical Les Miserables, as opposed to Hugo’s original novel (although some elements of that were incorporated to great effect). My sister, for example, didn’t quite grasp exactly how musical-y it would be and thus didn’t care for the film (even though I totally warned her).

Anyway, I don’t want to write a full review apart from saying I loved it. I just wanted to remark on how impressed I was by Samantha Barks’ performance in the role of Éponine. She totally stole the movie for me–which is saying something, considering she shared the screen with Ann Hathaway (who made me cry like a fool). Éponine is the character who sings my favorite song, “On My Own,” so I was really looking forward to seeing/hearing it the film.

I did some Googling when I got home and found this Samantha Barks performance from 2010, which was filmed for the musical’s 25th Anniversary. It’s a much different style than the way she sang it in the film* (which was much more raw, emotional and intimate), but it gives you a good representation of her singing ability:

*If you’re interested in hearing it the way she sang it in the film, that version can be found on Spotify. I learned Samantha previously starred as Éponine in the London production of Les Miserables from 2010 – 2011 before being asked to star in the film, which was her first movie role ever. I am impressed, Miss Barks.

Samantha Barks vs. Lea Salonga

Up until seeing Samantha, my only basis for comparison was Lea Salonga. Here’s her version of “On My Own,” which also blows me away every time I watch it:

Lea has such incredible control over her powerful voice, but Barks’ imperfections actually work in her favor, especially for a character like Éponine, who’s so vulnerable. I guess what I’m trying to say is, even though I think Lea has better range and ability, I felt like I connected more emotionally with Samantha in this role.

This is one of the things I love about musicals (and by extension film versions of musicals): seeing how the cast changes, and what each new performer does better or differently. It can also be a little frustrating at times, because you go to see a musical and and find yourself wishing you could mix and match from previous and current casts to achieve the perfect lineup. But for me that’s all part of the fun.

So, who do you think sings it better?

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