10 MARCH 2008

What a difference a year has made for West End star Leanne Jones. Just ten months ago the 22-year-old was working in a call centre, but last night she joined the likes of The English Patient star Kristin Scott Thomas, Sir Ian McKellen and Anne-Marie Duff at a prestigious awards bash in London, where she then scooped a best actress gong.

"It's very surreal and wonderful…" she said after being nominated for her role in smash hit musical Hairspray. But the actress admitted the feeling didn't surpass finding out she'd landed the role of Tracy Turnblad in the first place.

"That was the best news of my life!" she revealed. "I always wanted to sing in musicals but I never imagined playing the lead, especially at such a young age."

Hairspray turned out to be a big winner on the night. Michael Ball took the best actor prize for playing Tracy's cross-dressing mother - the role that John Travolta made famous in the big-screen version - and the production was also awarded the best new musical gong.

Meanwhile, Kristin Scott Thomas won best actress for her theatre role in The Seagull and Chiwetel Ejiofor was named best actor for his performance in Othello. Witnessing his triumph was a star-studded audience including EastEnders veteran Barbara Windsor, American Beauty actor Kevin Spacey and girl-about-town Kelly Osbourne.

Photo: ©
Delighted Leanna, who just ten months ago was working in a call centre, shows off her best actress in a musical gong at the Laurence Olivier Awards in London Photo: © Getty Images Click on photos for gallery
Photo: ©
Also taking home trophies were best actor Chiwetel Ejiofor for Othello and best actress Kristin Scott Thomas - honoured for her performance in The Seagull Photo: © PA
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