A singing waitress from Sweden has won the role of the Lady of the Lake in the West End production of Monty Python’s Spamalot (See News, 10 Jan 2008). On Saturday (2 February 2008), in the live final of the Swedish reality TV series West End Star, Nina Söderquist (pictured) went head-to-head with cruise ship entertainer Linda Holmgren and triumphed by taking over 59 percent of the public vote. From 11 February 2008, she’ll step into the role in the Monty Python musical at the West End’s Palace Theatre, taking over from Broadway’s Marin Mazzie.

The 35-year-old from Hälsingland, Sweden has performed with bands including Toto and the BeeGees and is also a lieutenant in the Swedish army. During the reality TV competition, she sang winning renditions of show tunes “With One Look” from Sunset Boulevard and “Tonight” from West Side Story as well as the “Diva’s Lament” from Spamalot.

Commenting on her victory, Söderquist said: “I am so happy to have won West End Star … Before I entered West End Star, I had never sung a song from a musical. I had only ever seen one musical my life - Cats as a teenager on a school trip to London.”

Over a 1,000 women took part in open auditions during September and October last year in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo. Over the past few weeks, the five finalists have been rehearsing in London at the Palace Theatre with the cast and crew of Spamalot, while returning to Sweden once each week to face the judges and the viewing public in a live TV sing-off.

Söderquist will initially star opposite Whatsonstage.com Award nominee Peter Davison as King Arthur and then, from 3 March, Ugly Betty star Alan Dale who takes over from Davison (See News, 25 Jan 2008). The current London cast also features Robert Hands (as Sir Robin), Steven Kynman (Herbert), Graham MacDuff (Sir Dennis Galahad), Andrew Spillett (Patsy), Tony Timberlake (Sir Bedevere) and Jake Nightingale (Sir Lancelot). The musical has a book and lyrics by original Python Eric Idle, who has also co-written the music with John Du Prez.

Spamalot opened in London 16 October 2006 (previews from 30 September) and is currently booking through to 27 September 2008. “Lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it tells the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in their quest to find the religious relic – and features a chorus line of dancing divas (with serfs), flatulent Frenchmen, killer rabbits and a legless knight.

Theatregoers can follow Söderquist’s West End Star journey via the official Python website, where back episodes are available online in English.

- by Terri Paddock