UPDATED, Fri 30 Jun 2006: Contrary to earlier media reports, Anthony Head will NOT be appearing in The Sound of Music.

As previously tipped (See The Goss, 24 Jan 2006), English soprano Lesley Garrett (pictured) will take to the musical stage this year to play the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music. According to today's Daily Mail, she’ll star alongside Whatsonstage.com Award winner Anthony Head, as Captain Von Trapp, as well as an as-yet undiscovered newcomer as Maria in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic when it opens on 14 November (previews from 4 November) at the West End’s London Palladium (See News, 16 May 2006).

Since the height of her operatic career with English National Opera, the Royal Opera House and others, Lesley Garrett has performed in operas and concerts around the world, released 11 solo CDs and regularly appeared on TV on programmes including her own series The Lesley Garrett Show. Garrett was awarded a CBE in the 2002 for Services to Music.

Anthony Head has become best known internationally for his role in the American television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His other recent screen credits include Spooks, The Family Business, Manchild, Silent Witness and, most recently Little Britain and Dr Who. In the West End, he played a pair of pirate villains, Captain Hook in Peter Pan and the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, in the 2003/4 double bill at the Savoy and, last year, starred opposite Richard E Grant in the Simon Gray play Otherwise Engaged, for which he won the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor (See News, 2 Feb 2006).

The Sound of Music was one of the best-known musicals by Rodgers and Hammerstein, whose other collaborations included The King and I, Oklahoma and South Pacific. Based on the 1949 book The Von Trapp Family Singers, written by Maria Von Trapp about her experiences as a trainee nun who falls in love with a widowed naval captain and his children in pre-war Austria, The Sound of Music opened in 1959 on Broadway, where it ran for 1,443 performances and won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It premiered in London in 1961.

The story and its score - including "My Favourite Things", "Do-Re-Mi", " Sixteen Going On Seventeen", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain", "Edelweiss", "So Long, Farewell" and the title song - was immortalised for generations of filmgoers by the 1965 Oscar-winning Hollywood version starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The stage show was revived in London in 1981 and on Broadway in 1998 while, in recent years, a sing-a-long version of the film has become a cult hit in London and on tour in the UK.

A nationwide search is now underway to find an unknown to play the lead of nun-turned-nanny Maria, via a BBC One TV reality casting programme, hosted by Graham Norton and entitled How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? (See News, 3 Apr 2006). Successful contestants from early rounds of auditions will face a judging panel – in which Lloyd Webber and co-producer David Ian will be joined by John Barrowman and voice coach Zoe Tyler – and then the voting public when the Saturday night programme is broadcast later this summer.

The Sound of Music 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 produced by David Ian, the Really Useful Group and Live Nation.

- by Terri Paddock