SHE might not have been able to solve a problem like Maria, but runner-up Abigail Finley is not ready to bid So Long, Farewell to a stage career just yet. She spoke to us ahead of her role in Fame The Musical in Manchester from April 7.
A YEAR ago Abigail Finley was just another stage school pupil hoping for her lucky break.
Today she's a household name (as runner-up in much-loved theatrical reality show How To Solve a Problem Like Maria), with a starring role in Fame The Musical!, and a truckload of hilarious anecdotes about her first taste of showbiz success.
"I really knew we'd hit the big time when I got on Maria' and we were all put up in John Leslie's old house in Richmond, south London.
"I was kind of upset I wasn't the first Abi to be filmed in that house to be honest!" she laughed.
"My life is completely different now. Before the Maria thing I was at drama school living a normal life, going into school every day for lessons. The next thing I'm on tv and people knew my name."
After the show Abi - known to fans of the programme as "tomboy Maria" - was approached by Andrew Lloyd Webber's business partner Tim Rice to star in stage musical Blondel.
After that finished she walked into a starring role in Fame - coming to Manchester Opera House from Monday.
And she couldn't be happier.
"Fame is a brilliant, brilliant show," said Abi.
"It's the most vibrant, energetic show you could ever wish to see. I play the part of Serena Katz, the ditsy, over-the-top and desperate-to-be-liked student. She's hysterical; a very cute character.
"She's a bit of a geek and she really wears her heart on her sleeve. She's always doing crazy things like trying to spend the night outdoors to understand what her character feels like to be cold.
"My favourite song is Think of Meryl Streep' which I sing after a guy my character really likes goes off with someone else. Typically she remembers what she's been told about channelling their emotion into acting and tries to think what Meryl Streep would do in that situation. It's fantastic to sing a big number and take centre stage."
Fame The Musical! is celebrating its 10th year in the West End and is one of the country's most successful theatrical productions, with 4million people enjoying the eternally inspiring story of the kids form New York's School for the Performing Arts.
Following one group of students from auditions to their graduation ceremony, Fame The Musical! takes audiences through the highs, lows, friendships, romances and sheer hard work that is daily life for the star-struck pupils in their quest for success.
Not everyone makes it, but the triumphant students perform a spine tingling finale that has prompted standing ovations around the world.
But of course a vibrant show, jam-packed with singing and dancing does take it out of you.
"It's so hard-going," admitted Abi.
"We have eight shows a week and when you come off stage on Friday afternoon you only have 20 minutes before the start of the evening show.
"It's a case of running to your dressing room, wiping yourself down with a towel, getting into your Act 1 costume and then re-applying your make-up.
"When you come off stage you're absolutely ravenous but you have to eat really healthily to keep your stamina up."
Abi, of Prestwich, is particularly excited about the tour dates in Manchester. It was watching shows at Manchester Opera House as a child that planted the seed of wanting to be a West End star.
"Hopefully all my family and friends will come and see me in Manchester, I can't wait. I feel so lucky to be doing what I've always wanted to do - I'm having the time of my life."
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