Musical star Emilie Fleming, who grew up in Boldon Colliery, braved Storm Ciara to celebrate returning to her home region in the hit musical with a photo shoot at landmark Penshaw Monument.
Opening night, on Tuesday, February 11, of the classic show will mark twenty one years since the actor was last on the stage when she appeared alongside Cobra the Gladiator and Richard McCourt from Dick and Dom in Aladdin.
Instead of being a junior panto dancer she’s now the leading lady playing the iconic role of Maria, which was made famous by Julie Andrews in the film version of the Broadway musical.
Emilie, now 28, said: “It will be very bizarre stepping on to the Empire stage as it feels like it was a lifetime ago, especially as I don’t live in the North East anymore. It makes me feel very nostalgic when I’m home.”
Although Emilie’s career means she is based in London, her family now live in South Shields and will be coming along to the Empire to watch her perform the iconic soundtrack, which includes Edelweiss, My Favourite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Climb Ev’ry Mountain, So Long, Farewell and title song The Sound of Music.
“I’ve got about 15 people coming to see me on opening night and about five each of the other nights,” she explained. “Some won’t have seen me perform in about 10/15 years.”
A former pupils at St Joseph's School in Hebburn, Emilie honed her skills at Carley School of Dance and Kathleen Burdon School, both in South Shields, before gaining a scholarship to Guildford School of Acting.
After becoming a finalist in BBC One’s Over the Rainbow with Andrew Lloyd Webber, she went on to appear in the 20th Anniversary production of Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre in London.
Speaking about her new role, she said: “I didn’t watch the film after I got the role because I trust the training I’ve done and I want to do it in my own way.
“However, like Julie Andrews, the way I work is with great detail. It’s such an iconic role, but I don’t want it to be an impersonation. It’s such a well written piece that you don’t need to do much more than be true to what’s written.”
This is Emilie’s first role back on the stage after a two-year career break to go travelling and pursue projects behind the camera.
She said: “It’s such a fun role to play, and a musical that means so much to people. You can always hear them singing along in the interval.”
Starring alongside Emilie is Andrew Lancel who is reprising his role as Captain von Trapp and is best known as villain Frank Foster in Coronation Street.
Baroness Maria von Trapp’s 1949 autobiography inspired the famous Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, which spawned the film.
*The Sound of Music is at Sunderland Empire from February 11-15. Tickets are available on 0844 871 3022 or at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland