She’s the Isle of Man’s own homegrown superstar and on August 17 she opens on Broadway, starring in Pretty Woman:The Musical. As she prepares for the biggest night of her career we ask Sam about the role and talk to her former drama teacher.
’She definitely had something special,’ says Stephen Craige, now head of Drama and Performing Arts at Ballakermeen High School. He taught Sam from the age of 14 at St Ninian’s during her GCSE years there.
He recalls: ’She had an undeniable talent and a cast iron voice: she makes it seem effortless but it has a real strength to it and an amazing quality to it.
’That stood out immediately, this amazing voice that she had.
’But besides that she was just so lovely as a person, she was completely committed to drama, she was driven, and she was loads of fun as well.
’It’s one thing to have the talent but it’s quite another to have the talent and the right kind of personality to become a successful performer. One without the other doesn’t work but she’s got both in bucketloads.’
Sam demonstrated her precocious talent early on when she took part in the school production of Grease. Stephen says: ’She played Rizzo and when she sang Rizzo’s big song at the end of the second half, people were crying because of how she delivered it. And she just stood and she just sang it - didn’t need anything more than that.
’It was just an utter joy and I feel very lucky to have been her teacher.’
Sam showed her determination to commit to a career on stage when she decided not to do A-levels but to go to drama school instead, an unusual route in those days for someone so young, but she was immediately accepted by Arts Educational Schools (ArtsEd).
Soon after that she auditioned and won a place on the I’d Do Anything television talent show which saw Andrew Lloyd-Weber searching for someone to play Nancy in Oliver! Sam reached the final three. She followed that with the starring role of Sam Bowles in a touring production of Cabaret, directed by Rufus Norris who is now artistic director at the National Theatre.
Sam went on to play Eponine in Les Miserable at the Queen’s Theatre, then Nancy in the UK touring production of Oliver! She was on stage during an Oliver! curtain call when she learned that she had been awarded the part of Eponine in the film version of Les Miserables, a role for which she won the Empire Award for Best Female Newcomer.
Now she is taking on Broadway, starring in Pretty Woman - The Musical, reprising the role of Vivian originally played by Julia Roberts in the iconic 1990 film. The score which has been written for the musical version has music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and his longtime collaborator Jim Vallance.
Sam says of her starring role: ’Getting to play the character of Vivian is not only a huge honour but also the most fun experience I have had professionally. To be here in New York feels very surreal and I am loving every moment of it.
’The support from home has been so wonderful and I look forward to seeing a few of those Manx flags in the audience.’
Stephen says he would love to be there to see her, adding: ’If I can I definitely will: I’ve seen her in a lot of things.
’Sam took me to the premier of Les Miserables in New York and it was quite something: that shows the generosity of the girl and the kindness.
’It’s phenomenal what’s happened to her and how quickly it’s happened and it’s not by accident. It’s no fluke to get to where she’s got to, to have had the films, to have had the tours, to have had the West End and now to have these songs being written for her, opening on Broadway - it’s huge.
’She could go absolutely anywhere and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.’
by Julie Blackburn