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Life is a Cabaret

PUBLISHED: 15:12 01 April 2009 | UPDATED: 17:13 16 August 2010

A TEENAGE actress who moved to London on her own when she was just 16 has told the Times how she is getting to grips with one of the grittiest roles in the business. Samantha Barks shot to fame at 17 when she came third in the hit BBC series I Would Do

A TEENAGE actress who moved to London on her own when she was just 16 has told the Times how she is getting to grips with one of the grittiest roles in the business.

Samantha Barks shot to fame at 17 when she came third in the hit BBC series I Would Do Anything.

Despite not getting the role of Nancy in Oliver Twist she landed another coveted part - Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

Following in Liza Minnelli's Oscar-wining footsteps, she plays a singer who battles with a drug and alcohol addiction in a decadent Berlin where the Nazis are on the rise.

Barks admits she did not try and mimic Minnelli's performance, coming to the role with a fresh angle.

The 18-year-old said: "It is one of the best roles out there.

"So many incredible people have done it. Liza was amazing. You could try to do something similar to her but you have to do your own thing.

"The interesting thing about Cabaret is you think of it as something that is light and jazzy but it is not like that. It is a show of two contrasts really. You have the life in the club and then the rise of the Nazis."

The late Natasha Richardson was cast in the same role in a 1998 Broadway production which earned her a Tony award. The revival by Sam Mendes also made a star of Alan Cumming in his part as Emcee.

Barks said: "I didn't know Natasha was in Cabaret until I read it in the paper a few days ago. It is a huge shame about her accident. I never saw her appear in Cabaret but I listened to the cast recording and she was great. It is really sad she died."

The teenager has been touring Britain with the show since September, giving eight performances a week along with veteran dancer Wayne Sleep.

She said: "He has been in the business for so long. He doesn't give advice too much. He has got respect for other actors."

Despite narrowly missing out on I Would Do Anything glory, Barks insists reality television can continue to be a good thing for musicals.

She said: "I have never known musicals to be so popular. I go to schools and the children have heard of all the top West End shows.

"When I was growing up nobody knew anything. They knew Andrew Lloyd Webber but didn't know much else."

She acknowledges the BBC show "absolutely changed her life".

She said: "It was the hardest, but the most amazing, thing I have ever done. I learned so much about myself and performing. I keep in touch with every single one of the Nancys as you make good friends on the show. Backstage it was always tense because with live television anything can go wrong and you are in front of £7 million people."

Barks leaves Cabaret in July but is already auditioning for other parts which she is keeping tight-lipped about.

But she does say she is open like to try out any form of acting - rather than limit herself to musical theatre. She said: "I am just going for anything. I will go for every opportunity you can get."

Although she left the Isle of Man when she was 16, the islanders remain fiercely proud of her - even renaming it the Isle of Sam during her time on television.

She said: "I didn't know whether to joke or be very honoured by it."

Although she describes the island as "very peaceful" and a "lovely place", Barks, the youngest of three children, knew a move to London was a must if she was to get her big break. So at 16 she moved to West London and lived on her own, training at the Arts and Education School in Chiswick while attending auditions.

She said: "It was scary but I felt fine about it. My family have been to see Cabaret about nine times. I used to get nervous when I knew they were in the audience but now it is normal. It is nice to know they support me."

l Cabaret is at The Churchill, Bromley from April 20 until April 25. To book call 0871 297 5454 or visit www.ambassadortickets.com.

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