In 2006, Andrew Lloyd Webber introduced us to a new genre of television talent competitions – a brutal contest to find a West End leading lady. After five successful series, and with the help of the nation, a Maria, Joseph, Nancy, Dorothy and Joseph were found. Almost ten years later, we look back at some of the show’s biggest success stories.
Words: Keziah Leary, Subeditor: Bea Renshaw
Thousands auditioned and thousands failed, and it was only a small number of lucky contestants who made their way onto our television screens to compete for a leading West End role. Each week of competition, saw the hopefuls sing their hearts out to impress an expert panel and win the votes of the audience at home. In the end there could only be one winner, whilst the others had the exit the show in the most brutal way – singing goodbye whilst being stripped of an item of clothing (so bizarre!). After that traumatic experience, many of the contestants still pursued careers in theatre. We’ve gathered together seven of the most memorable contestants, to see what they’ve been up to since.
Samantha Barks – I’d Do Anything
As one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biggest success stories, it’s hard to believe that Samantha only came third in her series. This certainly didn’t hold her back though, as she did go on to eventually perform as Nancy on the UK tour in 2011. Straight after the show though, she was the leading lady in Cabaret, and then went on to play Eponine in Les Miserables on the West End. She then went on to play Eponine again, in the 25th anniversary show at the O2, and then of course, in Tom Hooper’s film version of Les Miserables.
Lauren Samuels – Over The Rainbow
Lauren almost left the search for Dorothy very early on in the competition, when she found herself in the bottom two with another of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s favourites. Despite ending up in two subsequent sing-offs, she managed to make it to the final and earned herself a respectable third place. Since the show, she’s found herself at home on the West End stage, taking over from Siobhan Dillon as Sandy in Grease in 2010, before heading to the Dominion to play Scaramouche in We Will Rock You. Earlier this year, she returned to the West End as Jules in new musical, Bend It Like Beckham, where she continues to impress the audience every night.
— Lauren Samuels (@Laurensamuels88) September 26, 2015
Keith Jack – Any Dream Will Do
After narrowly missing out to Lee Mead in the final, Keith did eventually manage to win the role of Joseph (just three years later and in the UK touring production, rather than the West End). However, Keith was actually offered the West End role after Lee Mead finished, but turned it down in favour of working on some personal projects. Before putting on the technicoloured dreamcoat, he joined the UK tour as the narrator, alongside fellow Any Dream Will Do contestant Craig Chalmers. Keith has had leading roles in multiple pantomimes, released a few albums, been on two UK tours and even opened his own stage school. Since hanging up the dreamcoat in 2013, Keith has performed in an all male version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic, H.M.S. Pinafore, as well as leading a cast in brand new production, Sincerely, Mr Toad.
Ben Forster – Superstar
After winning ITV’s Superstar, Ben was lucky enough to tour the country in the role of Jesus, with the likes of Tim Minchin, Chris Moyles and Spice Girls’ Mel C. He then went on to play Brad Majors in the 40th anniversary tour of the Rocky Horror Show, before reprising the role of Jesus as he toured North American in Jesus Christ Superstar. Last month he took to London’s West End, to spread Christmas joy by “singing aloud for all to hear” as Buddy in Elf: The Musical. When he finishes the run at the start of next year, he’ll move to Her Majesty’s Theatre to take up the leading role in Phantom of the Opera.
— Ben Forster (@thebenforster) October 23, 2015
Connie Fisher – How To Solve A Problem Like Maria
Not only was Connie lucky enough to play Maria in the West End production of the Sound of Music, but she then went on to tour the UK in the role a few years later. In 2011, she was diagnosed with holes in her vocal chords, a condition which was thought to prevent her from ever being able to sing again. She instead focused on her TV career, appearing as a recurring patient on Casualty in 2012 and presenting Songs of Praise. After undergoing surgery, she featured in a BBC documentary earlier this year called Connie Fisher: I’ll Sing Once More, in an attempt to be able to professionally sing again.
Jodie Prenger – I’d Do Anything
Winning I’d Do Anything in 2008, led Jodie to complete a successful run as Nancy at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. She won the ‘Theatregoers Choice award’ at the WhatsOnStage Awards for her portrayal of the character in 2009. After leaving the show she appeared in multiple plays, including One Man, Two Guvnors, alongside Owain Arthur. Jodie maintained a close relationship with judge of the show, John Barrowman, and has since appeared on tour with him and featured on one of his albums. More recently, she’s just finished playing Linda Wickes in Waterloo Road, when the series finished earlier this year.
Lee Mead – Any Dream Will Do
After winning the second talent series, Lee put on the famous technicolor dreamcoat for a year and a half run as Joseph, at the Adelphi Theatre on London’s West End. He’s since appeared again on the West End many times, as Fiyero in Wicked and Emmett in Legally Blonde. Being the busy man that he is, he’s also had roles in numerous pantomimes, released three albums, and has been on a few UK tours. Staying in close contact with the judges of Any Dream Will Do, Lee even went on to marry (and divorce) Denise Van Outen, and the couple have a daughter together. Nowadays Lee can be seen on Saturday night television, appearing as ‘Lofty’ on BBC One’s Casualty. But his fate on the show is unsure, as he’s recently been announced as Caracatus Potts in the UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
— Lee Mead (@leemeadofficial) October 18, 2015