In 2006 a brand new type of reality TV hit our screens. Singers and performers everywhere pricked up their ears as Andrew Lloyd Webber announced he was looking for an unsung talent to play Maria.
Former Pizza Express waitress and media telesales worker Connie Fisher thought she might as well go for the part.
In September, she was announced as the winner of BBC1’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, and was due to appear in the starring role of The Sound Of Music in the West End.
All Connie’s dreams had come true. She’d gone from obscurity to the biggest leading lady role in the country.
But it wasn’t all peachy as soon her voice began to falter, and she was diagnosed with congenital sulcus vocalis. It meant she might never have been able to sing again.
Connie says: ‘It was heartbreaking. I was doing seven or eight shows a week and I realised I couldn’t hit the top notes that I used to be able to. ‘I was struggling a lot, and I lost my high soprano.
‘It was unbelievable. I just couldn’t believe it was happening.’
After visiting a voice surgeon in Boston, America (the same that treated Adele), she discovered the problem.
She adds: ‘He said “I don’t think there’s anything that can be done, you won’t sing again.”
‘But people expected me to come back and be Maria again. People expected Julie Andrews.’
But Connie went back and finished her run as Maria, but soon afterwards decided she would need to give her voice a break. By now it was completely different.
She says: ‘I got married, and I noticed that not exercising your voice, a bit like not exercising your body, you lose the range.
‘I just thought I can’t go back and be Maria.
‘I do what I can do comfortably now, although it’s 10 times harder than it ever was before. I say that, it’s probably 100 times harder.’
But now Connie is back again as she returns to the stage as Ruth Sherwood, in Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town.
It comes to the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from May 29-June 2.
She arrives in New York with her beautiful, younger sister, and the pair meet an array of colour characters.
Having only started rehearsals on Monday, Connie says: ‘I mean the shows like Sex and the City, I feel a bit like Carrie Bradshaw! But with a gorgeous sister who always gets the guy, and she’s just the quirky one. It’s kind of like me in real life! I get the guy because I can make them laugh.’
Optimistic about her return, Connie believes the silver lining behind losing her voice is that she has broken the typecast of Maria.
She says: ‘I’m not going to do the Royal Shakespeare Company, I’m never going to get an invitation to anyway, and I’m never going to perform at the National Theatre.
‘I’m probably not going to win an Olivier Award because there is a stigma attached to reality TV, although I’d love to.
‘But then there’s another thing I thought I’d never do, and that’s be in a Broadway musical.
‘This way the Broadway musical can come to me!’
Tickets cost £15 to £38 from the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton on (023) 8071 1811 or go to mayflower.org.uk.
Quote ‘launch discount’ when ordering tickets over the phone, and receive £6 off the top two ticket prices.