On a night that celebrated local stars and success stories, there was one guest who shone the brightest of all.

Samantha Barks opened the Isle of Man Newspapers Awards for Excellence, at the Villa Marina, with a show-stopping rendition of the song ’On My Own’, taken from the musical ’Les Misérables’.

Backed by images of her dressed in character as Eponine, Sam showed why her role in the 2013 film brought the Lonan girl to the attention of the world and made her a star of the stage and screen, singing with such quality and passion that it brought the audience to their feet and even left some in tears before the night had even got started.

This was a rare chance to watch Sam sing on her home stage. She said afterwards how thrilled she was and overcome with the reaction from the audience.

’That was an amazing moment for me, and to perform it here, in this room and to have a reaction like that, it did make me a bit emotional,’ said Sam.

As a singer and actress, Sam is much in demand, and was only in the island for less than two days.

She has just finished performing the lead role in the musical version of Pretty Woman in New York and is currently preparing to star in another huge production, playing the role of Florence in the famous musical Chess, opposite Ramin Karimloo, in Tokyo early next year.

’I can’t wait to start that,’ said Sam.

’Ramin is so cool to work with. We sang together at the 02 Arena for the 25th anniversary show for "Les Misérables".

’I have known him for years, and we have always crossed paths. I can’t wait to work with him, as he is just amazing.’

Her role as Florence is the latest in a growing line of famous characters that Sam is making her own.

Along with winning rave reviews for her portrayal as the doomed Eponine, she has also starred as Velma Kelly in a lavish production of ’Chicago’, and as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

She admits that she felt a little daunted by stepping into the role of Vivian in the Broadway production of Pretty Woman, as she had only one point of reference for the character to live up to.

’Nobody had done Vivian Ward on stage before and, basically, I had Julia Roberts to live up to,’ she said.

’Those are huge, huge boots to fill! Most other roles I have done, iconic roles like Eponine for example, come with the pressure that everyone has an opinion on how to play that role.

’But with Vivian Ward, she had purely been a film character. I was first person to in a musical to perform as her.

’But all you can do is to be truthful and faithful to yourself, do your research, find out what the character means to you and think what you can do that is different and new.

’You can’t go into a role like that thinking about what the character has already done. It’s not helpful. You just have to be in-the-moment and tell your character’s story. That’s your job.

’But I love the challenge of playing these characters.’

Sam has split her time between starring in musicals and acting in films, having starred in five movies since ’Les Misérables’.

Her latest film, ’For Love Or Money’ was released earlier this year.

Her role as a money-grabbing girlfriend in the self-described ’unromantic comedy’, has earned Sam further praise, with one review saying that she ’instantly lights up the screen with her presence while also proving that she can tackle dramas as well as musicals’.

After growing up on the local stages, and gaining the affection of television audiences across the UK as a confident and talented 17-year-old on the TV talent show ’I’d Do Anything’, Sam is now in a position where she is able to indulge both her loves of acting and singing at the highest level.

’I do love them both,’ she said.

’Theatre is my passion as it’s what I grew up doing, but I love every second of making a film. But to be back in theatre now makes me feel very lucky, as that is my dream.’

Even though her hectic work schedule means she spends her time moving between England, America and elsewhere in the world, Sam still thinks of herself as an island girl and comes home whenever possible.

’I get home as much as I possibly can,’ she said.

’I miss the Isle of Man and my family dreadfully, and for me, when I come home I make sure we spend a lot of precious family time together.

’My sister has just had a baby and I am obsessed with her, so I get back as often as I can, even for a day or two.

’Even when I am in the middle of New York or London or wherever, I miss my family and the island.

’They are always in my heart.’

by Mike Wade