Connie Fisher won the television programme How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? on Saturday 16 September 2006, which was a nationwide search for somebody to play lead role of 'Maria Von Trapp' in the new West End production of The Sound of Music at The London Palladium! Congratulations Connie!
Connie Fisher is 23 years old and, prior to How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? was working in Media Sales (ie telesales) although she hates it. Before that she was working as a waitress in a Pizza Express restaurant. Connie was classically trained from the age of 12, winning a full scholarship to Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts where she graduated with a first-class BA Hons Musical Theatre, winning a prize for the highest degree!
Her stage experience incudes being a member of The National Youth Theatre during her teen years, appearing at the Welsh annual cultural event Eisteddfod a number of times (she speaks Welsh) and, when she was 16, appearing on Jane McDonald's Star for a Night.
At the special concert at Andrew Lloyd Webber's country home at Sydmonton, Connie sung 'Show Me Heaven'.
Connie was born in Belfast - an only child and an Officers' daughter - before they moved to Dorest and then, when she was six, to Pembrokeshire in Wales. She now lives in London and, although she has been to many auditions for West End shows, and has got to the final two, Connie but never gotten the part. But maybe that will change...
Regarding her similarities with Maria from The Sound of Music, Connie says that I'm a bit of a tomboy (the short hair), I'm a flibbertigibbet, a will o' the wisp, a clown. I've always been a bit scatty! Just as Maria is always late back to the convent, I'm always late for everything. As an only child, I've always been very independent like Maria, and I'm always, always singing," adding that "I've trained for three years in musical theatre. I know I have the passion, commitment and stamina to perform eight shows a week and have always aspired to play the lead in a West End Show."
12 August 2006: For the first of the BBC How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? 'knock-out' shows Connie sung the Aretha Franklin song 'Natural Woman' - Connie got the highest number of public phone votes and so goes through to the next round next week...
19 August 2006: On the second of the BBC How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? 'knock-out' shows Connie sung the Lulu song 'Shout' - she obtained enough public phone votes to go through to the next round next week...
26 August 2006: On the third BBC How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? 'knock-out' show Connie sung the Nina Simone song 'My Baby Just Cares For Me' - she obtained enough public phone votes to go through to the next round next week...
2 September 2006: On the fourth BBC How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? 'knock-out' show Connie sung Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend from the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - she obtained enough public phone votes in both rounds of public telephone voting to go through to next week...
9 September 2006: On the fifth BBC How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? 'knock-out' show Connie sung If I Can't Have You from the musical Saturday Night Fever - she obtained enough public phone votes in both rounds of public telephone voting to go through to next week's Grand Final...
16 September 2006: The Grand Final. This week each of the three finalists sung two solo songs. Connie's first song was As Long As He Needs Me from the musical Oliver! and her second song was The Lonely Goat Herd The Sound of Music - she obtained enough public phone votes to go through to the second round this evening along with Helena... Public phone voting lines where then reopened and both Helena and Connie returned to sing once again their favourite song from the series - Connie sung the Lulu song 'Shout' - then they both joined together to sing a joint rendition of the title song from The Sound of Music. The phone lines then closed and the over 1½ million votes where added up... and it was revealed that the public had choosen Connie to play the role of 'Maria' in the new West End production of The Sound of Music! After much excitement Connie then returned to sing once again the song 'The Sound of Music'. Well done Connie!! Connie Fisher said: "I feel on top of the world, thanks very much. I won't let you down. Every night will be an opening night. Thanks for making my dreams come true."
The First Previews: The first public preview performance of The Sound of Music took place at The London Palladium on Friday 3 November 2006 - and Connie Fisher wowed the packed sell-out audience who gave her a 100% standing ovation at the end! For the first two preview performances, on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 November, Simon Shepherd played the role of 'Captain von Trapp' - it was reported that Shepherd, best known for playing a doctor in the TV series Peak Practice, had agreed with the producers and the director Jeremy Sams, "that his performance as Captain von Trapp was not working within the production and therefore he has withdrawn from the show." He was replaced with Alexander Hanson. Connie Fisher said that "with Simon leaving, I had to rehearse a lot more which was vocally quite a big strain. They rehearsed Alexander separately and then put us together and we had to find out how it worked. I just had to be as versatile and pliable as I could be to mould around each new character, because the way Alex did it was different to the way Simon did it, and Chris Dickens, the understudy, who did it brilliantly for three nights."
The Opening Night: The official 'First Night' performance of The Sound of Music took place on Wednesday 15 November 2006 - this is the performance to which the critics from the various newspapers are invited to come and review the show:
"Connie Fisher overcame a nervy start to give a fine singing, and even acting, performance as the nun-turned-governess and governess-turned-wife, Maria." Benedict Nightingale, The Times
"Connie Fisher, the West End lead they chose off a BBC telly show, confronted and conquered her mountain last night - She's as natural and unsugared and wholesome as one of those pots of vegan yoghurt. Just listening to her makes you feel healthy." Quentin Letts, The Daily Mail
"Connie Fisher ('the people's Maria') occupies the Palladium stage with absolute confidence and winning charm... she also brings exactly the right qualities to the pesky postulant who first becomes governess to the von Trapp family, and then her employer's wife." Michael Billington, The Guardian
"Connie makes an absolutely enchanting Maria in Jeremy Sams's opulent production, handsomely designed by Robert Jones." Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph
"Connie is enchantingly fresh and ardent and she sings with a voice that can range from piping purity to soft tenderness." Paul Taylor, The Independent
Following her triumphant 'First Night', Connie said she felt "Elated! Just over the moon that, in some people's eyes, I'm seen to have succeeded. I feel that the casting process has been vindicated. I always knew I was right for the role, but every day I have felt I had to prove myself. Now I hope to relax into it, so people can stop looking at the girl off the telly and just look at Maria as part of a massive, successful production."
Connie was born in 1985 at Lisburn, Northern Ireland. She attended Hayscastle Junior School and Sir Thomas Picton School. She was involved with the The Haverfordwest Operatic Society and was a member of the National Youth Music Theatre from 1999 to 2002 during which time she played in their production of Pendragon at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre and on a tour of Japan. She continued her taining at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts where she graduated in 2005 with a BA Hons in Musical Theatre. While training her credits included Nine, Carousel, Jerry's Girls, A... My Name Is Alice, Twelfth Night, Vinegar Tom, Annie Get Your Gun and Roots. Her first professional engagement was at Milford Haven Torch Theatre, Christmas 2005, where she played 'Princess Samina' in the pantomime Aladdin. She then won the Gower Trophy in the final of the 2006 Welsh Musical Theatre Young Singer of the Year Competition, held at Swansea Grand Theatre. Following her graduation from Mount View Connie went to numerous auditions, narrowly missing out on the starring role as 'Christine' in The Phantom of the Opera. She also made it to the final stages for a leading part in ABBA show Mamma Mia!
"It was only a year ago that I quit Pizza Express. I'd been so sure I'd get an acting job, but I worked such long hours and I was so tired I didn't even get the chance to look. At one point I sold my car, so I could afford time off to go to auditions. At Mamma Mia! they said: 'If someone leaves, Connie, we'll give you a call.' I got so excited, then totally lost faith when they didn't ring."
Connie was also recalled three times for the part of Juan Peron's mistress in the West End revival of Evita, but still didn't get the part. Likewise she made it down to the final three for the role of 'Truly Scrumptious' in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but again didn't get the role. But finally Connie's perseverance paid off when she decided to have a go at auditioning for the role of 'Maria' in The Sound of Music which the BBC are holding...
Although Connie Fisher had been playing the role of 'Maria' eight times-a-week when the show first opened, the following statement was issued by the producers in March 2007:: "Through a desire not to let the public down Connie Fisher sang through a heavy cold which has caused a vocal injury. The vocal chords are a muscle like any other and, as in the sporting world, when injured they require complete rest to recover. On her doctor's advice Connie has to take two weeks off from the show starting on Monday 5 March in order to allow the injury time to repair. The Sound of Music is a fantastic production with an enormously talented cast and we are very lucky in that, in Connie's absence, the role of Maria will be covered by Sophie Bould, who has been receiving standing ovations for her portrayal of Maria.
During this two weeks (Monday 5 - Saturday 17 March) of Connie Fisher's enforced medical absence from The Sound of Music, the producers of the show, Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian, have decided that anyone who wishes to exchange their tickets for later dates should get in touch with the ticket agency / box office from whom they bought their tickets. We regret that we may be unable to re-seat customers in the very near future (it may be as late as November) but we will be happy, in the circumstances, to re-seat as soon as we can. While Connie has now agreed to stay with the show through November to make this possible, you should be aware that many of the remaining original cast in the show may have left by then. For those of you who still intend to see the show this week and next, we are delighted to say that Connie's excellent understudy, Sophie Bould, is receiving standing ovations at every performance and, as you may have heard on BBC Breakfast News, we have received many emails commending her performance."