Connie Fisher (pictured) - who won the Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Newcomer of the Year on Friday (See News, 9 Feb 2007) – will return to The Sound of Music at the West End’s London Palladium tonight (12 February 2007), having missed the last week’s worth of performances after suffering a heavy cold and losing her voice.

Though now back with the show, Fisher will not be performing all eight performances this week, on doctor’s advice. On Wednesday and Saturday, Fisher will appear in matinees but not in the evenings, when Sophie Bould will play the part of nun-turned-nanny Maria von Trapp.

The Mountview-trained Fisher, who won her starring role after triumphing in the reality TV contest How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, received a positive reception from critics as well as the general public when she opened as the nun-turned-nanny in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical on 15 November 2006 (previews from 3 November). The Award was her second prize in less than a fortnight, having also jointly won, with Andrew Garfield, the Critics’ Circle Newcomer accolade last month (See News, 30 Jan 2007). Fisher recently extended her contract in The Sound of Music through to February 2008 (See News, 23 Jan 2007).

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical 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. The new West End production – which also won this year’s Award for Best Musical 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 Lloyd Webber and David Ian, the Really Useful Group and Live Nation.

The production also stars Alexander Hanson as Captain Von Trapp, soprano Lesley Garrett as the Mother Abbess and Ian Gelder as Max as well as Lauren Ward as the Baroness, Sophie Bould as Liesl and Neil McDermott as Rolf and three teams of children.

In another unscheduled – though permanent – cast change, Ben Barnes has left the West End company of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys at Wyndham’s Theatre. Barnes, who starred as schoolboy object of affection Dakin, departed without warning on 1 February 2007, having been reportedly offered the title role in title role in Prince Caspian, the CS Lewis sequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Barnes has been temporarily replaced by Jamie King, who played the role of Dakin in the original UK tour and in previous London dates at the NT Lyttelton. King will continue to fill in until early March, when a permanent replacement will be cast.

Set in the 1980s, The History Boys questions the purpose and means of education. In a school where the headmaster cares only about exam results, a bunch of excitable sixth-form boys go about their pursuit of the important things: sex, sport and a university place.

Since its premiere at the National on 18 May 2004, The History Boys’ myriad awards to date have included: Best Play at the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards, Best New Play at the Olivier Awards, Best New Comedy at the Theatregoers’ Choice Awards and, in New York, no fewer than six Tony Awards, including Best Play and Best Direction of a Play.

Elsewhere in the current cast, seen on the road last year for the play’s second major UK tour, Stephen Moore plays unconventional English teacher Hector (originated on stage and screen Richard Griffiths), with Isla Blair (as Mrs Lintott), William Chubb (as the Headmaster) and Orlando Wells (as Irwin). The boys are played by Owain Arthur (Timms), Philip Correia (Rudge), Marc Elliott (Akthar), Thomas Morrison (Scripps), Akemnji Ndifornyen (Crowther), David Poynor (Lockwood) and Steven Webb (Posner).

- by Terri Paddock