Is 17 too young to play Sally Bowles?

I am sure that fans of Samantha Barks (pictured) are rejoicing at the recent announcement that she is to be cast as Sally Bowles in Bill Kenwright’s touring version of the Kander and Ebb classic, Cabaret. It will no doubt inspire many more contestants to line up ready to audition for the next search for a star reality tv show.

But, at 17, is Barks too young to take on the role immortalised by Liza Minnelli but also played by, among them; Molly Ringwald, Teri Hatcher, Brooke Shields, Amy Nuttall, Anna Maxwell Martin, Gina Gershon and of course Judi Dench? It’s not just her age that bothers me, it’s the lack of experience.

I, like any other theatregoer appreciate that a ‘star’ name will attract crowds. In this case, the producers have shrewdly thought that Samantha will attract a younger crowd who would not normally see Cabaret and I can see their logic. But surely Nuttall, Kim Metcalfe or another older actress who has lived a bit more woud have been more appropriate.

Rufus Norris‘ recent version of Cabaret was not my favourite show, but it did attempt to do something different with the show, whether it be via the nudity or the racier staging. But I now cannot help think that the touring version will resemble a family-friendly Joseph style piece, with a young protagonist who will look like she is playing ‘dress-up’, as opposed to getting under the skin of one of musical theatre’s most flawed heroines.

What you you think?

Let us know whether you agree or disagree by leaving a comment here or go to our discussion board.

8 Responses to “Is 17 too young to play Sally Bowles?”

  1. Steve Says:

    I think 17 is way too young for Sally Bowles. Also, based on the Nancy show, I don’t think Sam will be able to sing it. She was one of the weakest Nancy’s on the show IMO.

    I did really enjoy the production in the West End with Amy Nuttall and Alistair McGowan, but I don’t see Sam and Wayne Sleep being anywhere near as good as either of the West End ones. I guess they’re also going to water down the show for the tour which is a real shame as I thought the West End production was superb.

  2. johnny Lucas Says:

    We have booked to see Samantha play Sally Bowles in Liverpool. We think it is such a brilliant role and can’t wait. We tried to book for the first night in Birmingham but unfortunately Sold Out. I thinks she is an unbelievable performer, I don’t think she is too young, it is so wonderful to see young girls getting parts like this. We also voted so many times for Samantha and she did so well getting to the final, she was outstanding in her performances.

  3. sue Says:

    Dear steve, you really don’t have to watch Cabaret, that is what is so good about having freedom of choice. I was lucky enough to have seen I’d Do Anything, live. Samantha was our favourite from the start, she got stronger and stronger and when we saw her live we were left speechless, that girl has got the most amazing voice and she acted through her song and she can certainly move. Sam was very clever how she conducted herself, she was graceful and showed maturity beyond her years. We managed to meet Sam at the end of the night, she was so friendly and helpful to us. We know having met Sam, she will be brilliant playing Sally Bowles. Terri Hatcher played Sally Bowles, on Broadway and she got some terrible comments and how old was she, thirty something, age does not matter, it is about entertaining and I believe Samantha is very special. We also booked to see Sam, in fact there are twenty of us going to see her in Southampton.

  4. David Baxter Says:

    Rachel from IDA has been cast as Meat in We Will Rock You and yet her best performance was when she did Cabaret. Sam is a much more a rock/pop style singer andfar more suited to WWRY. I think both girls deserve to be cast in professional shows but can’t help feeling the roles should have been swapped.

  5. James Tudor Says:

    I am afraid I have to completely disagree.
    What few people seem to realise is that Sally Bowles was based on a real character from Christopher Isherwoods semi autobiographical work ‘Good Bye to Berlin’. Sally Bowles was in fact a 19 year old upper class English run away. Sam being 18 makes her the perfect age to play this wonderful character.
    We saw this production of Cabaret in Birmingham and thought that Sam played a really well researched and reflextive Sally. To be honest Sam was far more Sally Bowles than Lisa ever was! We were most impressed all round… only with the exception of Wayne Sleep who was generally considered, all round, to be too old, too weak and too “show biz” to create a convincing, seedy, sinister Emcee. He carried very little of the strong political message carried by the rest show, which is in fact one of the main factors of the character, and ruined the strength of the ‘vile’ message carried through “if you could see her” by going into a bit of light Ab Lib with the audience and showing off his fading ballet skills! Bring back Alan Cumming!!!!!

  6. Saira Says:

    I saw the show last night at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth and Sam was PERFECTLY cast in the role. She is a triple threat…she can dance, sing and act superbly. Agreeing with james Tudor on the Wayne Sleep front.

  7. Hanna Says:

    Of course it’s too young – Sally is such a hugely complex character, difficult to get right even for a RADA graduate. You have to portray hugely conflicting emotions – youth and vibrance barely covering the crumbling vulnerability of Sally, at the same time feigned ignorance of what goes on around her and yet a huge empathy. So many layers- it requires all the skills of an actor: it’s an actors role really, not musical theatre, and that’s why Judi D, Anna Maxwell Martin, Jane Horrocks and all are really the best Sallys. There’s no way a teenager with barely any formal training could communicate all that to the audience.
    Saw Sam Barks as Sally. Her accent was all over the place, and she was more like an imitation Liza Minelli than her own character. After seeing Jane Horrocks’ performance (albeit on Youtube) it was a bit of a downer.

    (Plus Sally is not a triple threat character- Christopher Isherwood clearly writes that her voice is bad, the only reason the audience loves her is for her aura of complete nonchalance.)

    Just my two cents.

  8. Bud Lalandnon Says:

    how many calories in a grapefruit juice, My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find almost all of your post’s to be what precisely I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content in your case? I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome blog!

Leave a Reply