As previously tipped over the past couple months (See The Goss, 18 Dec & 20 Nov 2007), two-time Award nominee turned Hollyoaks soap star Summer Strallen (pictured) will take over from Connie Fisher as the next Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music at the West End’s London Palladium.

Though an official announcement has not yet been made, the Daily Mail today confirms that Strallen will join the production next month. Fisher’s contract concludes on 23 February 2008, with Strallen giving her first Monday 25 February 2008. The announcement delay is due to the tie-in with Strallen’s current role in Hollyoaks, which she has been playing since October.

In the ITV soap, Strallen’s character, Summer Shaw, is so desperate to become a West End star that she begins stalking Andrew Lloyd Webber until he agrees to give her an audition. The composer will make his acting debut in Hollyoaks, appearing in three episodes on 29, 30 January and 1 February, when he’s expected to “discover” Shaw/Strallen and offer her the lead in The Sound of Music. Commenting on his TV cameo appearance, Lloyd Webber said: "I have blurred fiction with fact all my life but never before on national television. Bless Hollyoaks for asking me."

Strallen - who is Bonnie Langford's niece and Mary Poppins star Scarlet Strallen’s sister – is currently in the running for Best Actress in a Musical in our Theatregoers’ Choice Awards for her role as stage starlet Janet Van de Graaff in the short-lived Broadway transfer of The Drowsy Chaperone (click here to vote!). She was also Award-nominated (and Olivier-nominated) for the 2006 revival of Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend at the Open Air Theatre. Her other West End musical credits include Guys and Dolls, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Cats and Scrooge.

The Sound of Music premiered on Broadway in 1959, when it won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show first opened in London in 1961 and its last London revival was in 1981, both productions having record-breaking runs. The 1965 Hollywood film, which starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, won five Oscars, including Best Picture.

The London revival is directed by Jeremy Sams and designed by Robert Jones, with choreography by Arlene Phillips, sound by Mick Potter, lighting by Mark Henderson and musical supervision by Simon Lee. It’s presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian, the Really Useful Group and Live Nation. The production is currently booking until 29 March 2008. In last year’s Theatregoers’ Awards, The Sound of Music won Best Musical Revival and London Newcomer of the Year for Fisher, while How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? was named Theatre Event of the Year.

The current cast also features Simon Burke (Captain von Trapp), Fiona Sinnott (the Baroness), Paul Grunert (Max), Amy Lennox (Liesl), Luke Fredericks (Rolf), Margaret Preece (Mother Abbess) and Fisher’s fellow How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? finalist Aoife Mulholland (alternate Maria).

- by Terri Paddock