Fisher has no problem making Maria a hit on Playhouse stage

CONNIE Fisher made a triumphant professional debut in the Capital last night as The Sound of Music arrived at the Playhouse for a five-week run.

Dubbed the "People's Maria" after winning BBC1's How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, Fisher has returned to the role for the production's UK tour, after making it her own in London's West End.

Last night, after seducing a packed preview audience at the Playhouse, the 26 year-old revealed to the Evening News that she had just discovered her long-lost auntie now lives in Edinburgh.

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"I have family in the Borders and my auntie Jeanette lives in Edinburgh," she said just minutes after coming off stage to tumultuous applause. "But I didn't know she lived in Edinburgh until today! They aren't coming until later in the run but they sent me some lovely flowers.

"I haven't seen them for years. They used to own some chalets up by Loch Ness and we used to spend Christmases there.

"My grandmother is from Inverness, although she sounds like she is from Edinburgh. She is very well spoken, the same as Miss Jean Brodie!"

Despite her international fame and celebrity status, Fisher has a refreshingly candid approach to her performances.

"Opening nights are always scary," she said. "But to do it in a theatre that size is absolutely terrifying. It was 3,000 people, but it felt like playing Wembley, to be honest. It was so huge.

"In this cavernous space you are not so sure whether the audience like it or they don't, but I think they liked it in the end. You have to warm them up and win them over. Once you have climbed that mountain, everyone is clapping before the end because they are overjoyed that you have made it."

The audience certainly did enjoy it. Retired couple Anne and John Robertson, of Hillend, said: "We saw the film in Hong Kong in 1966 and the show on stage in Perth, Australia. Connie Fisher is great, she definitely has talent. The whole thing was wonderful."

May Bruce, 82, of Dundee Street, said: "It lived up to my expectations, the singing was tremendous."

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Fisher also revealed that playing in different venues with different audience has made the production evolve.

She said: "I think it has really grown. Then I was really nervous but now I just enjoy it and try to let it grow. I think that is really important, to let it grow naturally."

The official opening of The Sound of Music is tonight.

The sound of anticipation

By Thom Dibdin

THE murmur of anticipation turned into a thunderstorm of applause at the Playhouse Theatre last night, as Connie Fisher's Maria and Michael Praed's Von Trapp seduced each other and yet another city in the latest preview night of The Sound of Music, ahead of tonight's official opening night.

Fisher may not be the most powerful Maria, but her voice has enough drama to conquer the role's singing elements, while her acting abilities allow her to overcome the inherent saccharine- tainted memory of Julie Andrews' hills.

Having only ever encountered the film before, it is enlightening to discover the musical's level of political involvement as the Von Trapp family flee Austria after the 1938 Anschluss. But it is the stage version's ability to touch a deep emotional chord which is most gratifying.