After the reality blurring Hollyoaks storyline that saw an ambitious Chester student tenaciously stalk Andrew Lloyd Webber until he offered her the part of Maria in The Sound Of Music, actress Summer Strallen officially took to the stage as the famous singing nun last night at the London Palladium.
Supported by a gaggle of her former soap co-stars, including current Dancing On Ice sensation Chris Fountain, Strallen once again displayed the mix of tunefulness, dance prowess and comic ability that has made her one of the West End’s favourite things.
Strallen’s casting in the lead role has been a media event masterminded by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Though she originally won the part of Maria last summer, before she appeared in the musical Strallen was introduced to Channel 4’s popular teen soap Hollyoaks as character Summer Shaw. As her storyline evolved, Shaw’s dreams of becoming a West End performer came to the fore, leading to her decision to ensure Lloyd Webber heard her sing. The storyline peaked when she was offered the lead in his musical. The twist, of course, was that Strallen the actress, rather than her character, would then bid So Long, Farewell, to Hollyoaks and take to the London Palladium stage.
The cunning idea, which brought renewed attention to Lloyd Webber’s production, was the latest in his plans to bring theatre to the television screens. Original Maria, Connie Fisher, was chosen by the public via televised talent search How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? A similar search saw Lee Mead crowned the West End’s new Joseph. This year I’d Do Anything hopes to discover a new Nancy and three new child performers to play the eponymous lead in Oliver!
Opening in The Sound Of Music marks the start of an exciting week for Strallen, which will conclude, on Sunday, with the Laurence Olivier Awards in which she is nominated in the category of Best Actress In A Musical for her performance opposite Elaine Paige in The Drowsy Chaperone. It is the second time in successive years that Strallen has been nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award. In 2007 she was named in the Best Supporting Performance In A Musical category for The Boy Friend, losing out to Sheila Hancock.
To see if Strallen collects a Laurence Olivier Award this year, check Official London Theatre on Sunday evening, when we will be reporting live from the event at the Grosvenor House Hotel, bringing you the winners, the glitz, the glamour and the stars before anyone else. em>MA