Up and coming West End star Summer Strallen has been officially unveiled as the new Maria for The Sound Of Music. The former Drowsy Chaperone performer replaces Connie Fisher from 26 February. In casting Strallen, Andrew Lloyd Webber has pulled off another clever piece of television marketing, placing the actress in soap opera Hollyoaks in the build up to the announcement.
Strallen’s character in the Channel 4 teen soap, Summer Shaw, has been seen stalking Lloyd Webber in an effort to impress the impresario with her leading lady voice. In a case of fact blurring with fiction, the plot culminated in the composer/producer offering Shaw the lead role in The Sound Of Music.
Lloyd Webber first used television to aid his casting process when searching for the first actress to play Maria in his revival of The Sound Of Music. The BBC series How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? uncovered Connie Fisher, who has been playing the singing nun ever since. The trick was repeated with Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat search Any Dream Will Do, which shot Lee Mead to the top of the West End.
Unlike Fisher and Mead, Strallen is far from being an unknown in the West End, and is actually one of London Theatreland’s hottest young properties. Following ensemble and understudy performances in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Guys And Dolls, she took her first major role in the highly acclaimed Open Air theatre production of The Boy Friend in 2006, for which she received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination. She has gone on to lead the cast of the Barbican’s first pantomime Dick Whittington And His Cat, and star alongside Elaine Paige in The Drowsy Chaperone.
Lloyd Webber’s revival of The Sound Of Music opened at the London Palladium in November 2006 following much anticipation created by How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? The famous musical tells the story of a young wannabe-nun who is sent to the Von Trapp family to be a governess to seven unruly children. It features songs including Do-Re-Mi, My Favourite Things, Climb Ev’ry Mountain and The Sound Of Music.
The London Palladium production is currently booking to October 2008. Strallen will, like Fisher, by replaced by alternate Maria Aoife Mulholland – also a How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? contestant – for Monday evening and Wednesday matinee performances. em>MA