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Manchester Evening News, Thursday, 23rd November 2006

Abi gets her starring role.
by Dianne Bourne

TONIGHT, reality show singing star Abi Finley will get to perform before musical impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber once again - but this time there's no need to worry about viewer votes and live sing-offs.

For Abi, a finalist in hit BBC show How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, makes her professional theatre debut in London, with Lord Webber among the esteemed guests to watch her sing.

Abi, 24, from Prestwich, plays feisty Fiona in the revival of Lord Webber's sometime co-writer Sir Tim Rice's historical musical, Blondel, at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington.

And she tells me she's looking forward to catching up with maestro Webber at the after-party.

Abi says: "Andrew was the one who had faith in me and gave me this opportunity in the first place.

"I feel like I never want to let him down. But my main mission is still to get Andrew to cast me in Funny Girl.

"I'm going to have to make him laugh continually, until he says, 'Oh, you funny girl', and realises he has to cast me.

"I might even go in full-on Barbara Streisand garb just to prove the point."

Abi lost out on the role of Maria Von Trapp in Webber's West End Sound Of Music to Connie Fisher, but gamely admits that the best woman won, after watching Connie as the singing trainee nun last week.

Abi said: "It was absolutely fantastic.


"I cried my eyes out, but then I am pretty soppy. I got so emotional as soon as I saw Connie on the mountain."

But did she have the tiniest bit of envy that it wasn't her in the habit?

"Absolutely not," she laughs.

"The whole experience on the TV show was so wonderful that there shouldn't be any negativity attached.

"And, if I'd won, I wouldn't be starring in this wonderful production of Blondel, so it's all worked out perfectly."

Connie, of course, is having her first taste of the down side of fame after allegations about her private life have been splashed across the national newspapers.

Abi says: "I think it's such a shame for Connie. It's really, really mean.

"I texted her to see if she was OK, and she seemed quite down about it, but she's such a professional, she'll bounce back."

Abi, meanwhile, will go straight from Blondel after Christmas into rehearsals for a new touring production of hit musical Fame.

It will bring her back to perform in Manchester - and she can't wait.

"It will be wonderful to perform at the Opera House, and I'll be able to pop home to Prestwich for a bit of TLC while I'm there!"

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