4 MARCH 2008

As the curtain went up and Summer Strallen sang her first notes as Von Trapp governess Maria in the West End musical The Sound Of Music, she had some special fans among the London Palladium audience.

Watching the 23-year-old actress were her Hollyoaks former castmates Zoe Lister, Carly Stenson, Gerard McCarthy, and Chris Fountain. The friends wished Summer good luck with a group hug before the performance, which earned a standing ovation for the delighted star.

Summer joined Hollyoaks in October to play an aspiring actress in a storyline masterminded by Andrew Lloyd-Webber. The music empresario worked closely with Channel 4 to introduce his hand-picked replacement for How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria winner Connie Fisher into the TV series.

And he is clearly pleased with the result. "She was fantastic. We are very proud of her," said Lord Lloyd-Webber after the curtain came down. "It's a corny thing to say but we had the most fantastic spring with Connie and I think we're going to have a glorious Summer."

Photo: © Alphapress.com
The actress' former castmates were among the first to congratulate her on successful West End debutPhoto: © Getty ImagesClick on photos for gallery
Photo: © Alphapress.com
They weren't the only ones showing their appreciation. "She was fantastic. We are very proud of her," said music empresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, who hand-picked Summer for the part and masterminded her joining the Hollyoaks castPhoto: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Joining Andrew in showing their support were (from left) TV actors Gerard McCarthy, Zoe Lister, Carly Stenson and Chris FountainPhoto: © Getty Images
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