It turns out Connie Fisher knows how to solve a problem like Maria after all.
The reality TV contest winner turned in a winning performance on the opening night of Andrew Lloyd Webber's London production ofThe Sound of Music on Thursday, as critics hailed the troubled show.
Fisher "occupies the Palladium stage with absolute confidence and winning charm," said Guardian critic Michael Billington of her role as Maria, the nun, turned governess, turned wife of the governor.
"Although Maria may be a novitiate, the highly talented Fisher is clearly no novice," he said.
Benedict Nightingale of the Times praised Fisher's "fine singing and even acting," the Independent's Paul Taylor praised a voice "that can range from piping purity to soft tenderness," and the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts said "just listening to her makes you feel healthy."
After Fisher received a standing ovation, co-producer Webber called it a breakthrough performance.
"What can one say? I've never seen a response from the audience like it in my career," Webber told the Daily Telegraph.
"Connie is one of the most exciting talents I have ever seen. She's raised the game right across the board," he said of the 23-year-old.
The producer and writer of Broadway hits Evita, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera was widely criticized for choosing Fisher throughthe reality television show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?
The production was plagued by further controversy when Emma Williams, the actress hired as Fisher's backup, left the show over the number of performances she would receive. Whispers the productionwas in troublewere heardagain when the actor playing the role of Captain Von Trapp was replaced just nine days before opening night.
But Alexander Hanson, a veteran of Webber's musicals, came in and replaced soap opera star Simon Shepherd and also received warm reviews.
Fisher, a former telephone call-centre worker, won How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? after public telephone voting in the season finale in September. The show drew an average of six million British viewers per episode.