Watch: Why Every Eponine 'Fills Our Hearts with Love' - an Ode to 'Les Mis' Scrappy Heroine

As an unabashed musical theater nerd and a budding lesbian back in the ‘80s, back when there weren’t very many out women or even lesbian characters to identify with, I was un-ironically drawn to the character of Eponine in Les Misérables (the musical extravaganza and not Victor Hugo's epic novel as I'm sure I had no idea who Hugo was in 1985). Scrappy, smart, tomboyish, passionate, brimming with desire--even if it's always been for Marius— Eponine was the perfect character crush for a baby dyke and showtune-obsessed girl from the Connecticut burbs.
By: Tracy E. Gilchrist
December 17 2012 3:06 PM

As an unabashed musical theater nerd and a budding lesbian back in the ‘80s, back when there weren’t very many out women or even lesbian characters to identify with, I was, without irony, drawn to the character of Eponine in Les Misérables (the musical extravaganza and not Victor Hugo's epic novel as I'm sure I had no idea who Hugo was in 1985). Scrappy, smart, tomboyish, passionate, brimming with desire--even if it's always been for Marius— Eponine was the perfect character crush for a baby dyke and showtune-obsessed girl from the Connecticut burbs. 

Like a 12-year-old girl of today armed with a Taylor Swift break-up song, back then,  “On My Own” became my touchstone. Every word of that indelible showstopper about longing and feeling like an outsider spoke volumes to me, and being a theater geek, I was not shy about singing it ad nauseum in the shower, the car… With each spin of “On My Own” my heart broke for Eponine as I could never comprehend why Marius would choose mousy, pain-in-the-ass, whiny Cosette over the tough-as-nails, cleavage-heaving urchin Eponine. And, to this day, he continues to choose her. I believed I deeply related to the rejection she incurred at the hands of insensitive, dumbass Marius eight times a week on Broadway and I hopelessly wanted to alter her narrative.

Which brings us to the present... As anyone with a TV, smart phone, iPad is more than well aware,  The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper has thrown together a little big screen version of the epic musical – not to be confused with the non-musical Les Mis from 1998 that starred Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Claire Danes and Uma Thurman that I totally paid to see in the theater and thoroughly enjoyed.  While Anne Hathaway’s raw turn as Fantine in Hooper’s Les Mis, which drops on Christmas Day, is getting loads of attention and accolades, British chanteuse Samantha Barks’ Eponine has gotten short shrift.

As much as I’m happy for Anne, and what will likely be the performance that lands her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, with just over a week until Les Mis' release, it's time to completely get our musical theater nerd on to as many famous ladies performing “On My Own” -- from Barks, who played her in the 25th Anniversary special, to the incomparable Lea Salonga, Lea Michele performing the number at an HRC event and even Katie Holmes. That’s right – Dawson’s Creek era Katie Holmes singing “On My Own” is definitely not to be missed for reasons that will become apparent to you watch you've heard it. 

Oh, and if musical theater or Les Mis in particular is not your thing, I'm fairly certain that playing a dozen different versions of "On My Own" in a row is a good way to exact revenge on someone you don't like. 

Big Screen Eponine: Samantha Barks in Les Misérables the movie: 

Samantha won Britains reality contest "I'd Do Anything," winning the role of Nancy in the West End's production of Oliver. She went on to play Eponine in the 25th Anniversary production, and now she's starring opposite Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried and Russell Crowe in the big-screen version. 

Pop Star Eponine: Samantha from the 25th Anniversary Concert 

Here, Samantha plays our heroine opposite Nick Jonas' Marius for the anniversary concert that also featured Lea Salonga as Fantine. 

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The Original Eponine: Frances Ruffelle 

Ruffelle originated the role of Eponine in both the London and Broadway productions, earning a Tony award and winning the hearts of millions of musical theater lovers. 

 

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West End Eponine: Linzi Hately 

A real West End darling, Linzi played the narrator in the revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Nancy in Oliver!, Roxie Hart in Chicago and Eponine! 

 

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The Gold Standard Eponine: Lea Salonga 

Widely considered in theater geek circles to be the best Eponine of all time, Lea is best known for originating the role of Kim in Miss Saigon in London and on Broadway. For that she won the Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards. Following her portrayal of Kim she moved on to play Eponine on Broadway. Lea also sang "A Whole New World" in Alladin.  And, she just happens to be related to Pretty Little Liars' Shay Mitchell. She's Shay's mom's cousin. 

 

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Danish Eponine: Julie Lund

Watch TV and theater star Julie Lund sing "On My Own" in Danish for a production of Les Mis at the 

Frederiksborgcentret in 2006. 

 

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Reality Star Eponine: Danielle Hope

Winner of Britain's Over the Rainbow reality show on which she competed for the role of Dorothy in the West End's production of The Wizard of Oz. She is currently starring as Eponine in the West End production of Les Mis.

 

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Glee-Ponine: Lea Michele 

Of course Glee star Lea Michele sings "On My Own" at parties. Below is the Broadway baby performing the showstopper at the HRC gala in DC in 2009. Not merely a TV star Lea's got some Broadway cred having starred in Les Mis as the young Cosette when she was just a wee thing, followed by a stint as the little girl in Ragtime and a role in the revival of Fiddler on the Roof before landing her big break in Spring Awakening. Lea played Eponine at the Hollywood Bowl's concert version of Les Mis in 2008. 

 

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On the Road Eponine: Chasten Harmon 

Chasten Harmon played Eponine in the recent 25th Anniversary National Tour. There's a bit of controversify over her pop-ifying the word "pretending" with a little Aguilera-like run, but feel free to judge for yourselves. 

 

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Dawson's Creek- Ponine: Katie Holmes 

Full disclosure - I have never seen an entire episode of Dawson's Creek, so I don't exactly know the context of Katie Holme's Joey singing "On My Own" while Michelle Williams looks on, but if I pay attention to the YouTube comments -- something one should rarely, if ever, do -- I can discern that Joey is likely singing her little guts out over a broken heart after Dawson dumped her. If any of you has more accurate information to help contextualize this version of "On My Own" please feel free to leave it in the comments. 

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