The “people’s choice Maria” Connie Fisher (pictured) is up for yet-another audience-voted accolade. After triumphing on BBC’s reality TV contest How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? to win the leading role of Maria von Trapp in the new West End production of The Sound of Music, at the beginning of this month Fisher was nominated for two trophies – Best Actress in a Musical and London Newcomer of the Year (See News, 1 Dec 2006) – in Whatsonstage.com’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards (click here to vote now!); today, she has been shortlisted for the South Bank Show’s “Breakthrough Award”.

The Breakthrough Award, part of the ITV programme’s annual prize-giving covering a wide range of the arts, specifically recognises rising British talent. The category is sponsored by The Times with the winner decided by a public vote organised through the newspaper.

Fisher is the theatre nominee in the Breakthrough category. She will compete with: Alison Balsom (trumpet player who has introduced the instrument into the mainstream) for Classical Music; Andrew Kennedy (played the role of ‘Ferrando’ in Glyndebourne on Tour’s production of Cosi Fan Tutti) for Opera; Jane Harris (debut novel The Observations, Faber) for Literature; Rafi Gavron (debut in Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering) for Film; David Oyelowo (lead in BBC Two’s Shoot the Messenger) for TV Drama; Archie Bronson Outfit (album Derdang Derdang) for Pop; Simon Amstell (stand-up debut at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as the new host of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, BBC) for Comedy; Jamie Shovlin (solo exhibition In Search of Perfect Harmony at Tate Britain) for Visual Art; and Jonathan Goddard (dancer with Richard Alston Dance Company and for his performance in Alston’s new Gypsy Mixture earlier this year) for Dance.

The Breakthrough Award was introduced in 2005 when the likes of Razorlight and actor James McAvoy nominated. Last year’s Breakthrough winner, for her TV role in Doctor Who, was Billie Piper, who will be making her stage debut next month in Christopher Hampton’s Treats (See News, 8 Nov 2006).

Commenting on the Breakthrough nominations, Melvyn Bragg, the South Bank editor and presenter and awards originator, said: “The awards go to British artists across the spectrum who have achieved great things in the year. This award brings to a wide public the best of new young talent in the country many of whom, young as they are, are already out there making what could well be great and deserved reputations.”

The rest of this year’s South Bank Show Awards nominations – for the ten main categories and the Arts Council England’s Decibel award for cultural diversity – will be released in early January. Winners will be announced at a star-studded ceremony, hosted by Melvyn Bragg, at the Savoy Hotel on Tuesday 23 January 2007. The ceremony will be aired, as part of the ITV1 arts programme, on Sunday 28 January.

- by Terri Paddock