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Summer goes back to the land.

Byline: Dawn Collinson

WHEN your auntie's Bonnie Langford, your godfather's Christopher Biggins and your parents starred in the original West End musical Cats, there's a good chance you'll find yourself in showbiz.

But while she may have been treading the boards since she was knee high to a pantomime dame, it was her life imitating art role in Hollyoaks, then taking over from Connie Fisher as Maria in The Sound Of Music, which shot Summer Strallen to fame.

As part of the publicity campaign for the West End show, the 24-year-old was planted in the soap as Summer Shaw a few months prior to her stage debut - a character who auditioned and then won the role of Maria in the West End.

"I think people thought I went to Hollyoaks and then to The Sound of Music and that was my first job but I'd done probably about eight before that," she says.

"Hollyoaks and The Sound Of Music were wonderful stepping stones for me and all my thanks go to Andrew Lloyd Webber and the executive producer of Hollyoaks, Tony Wood, who came up with the idea because it opened a lot of doors."

One of those doors was the opportunity to star in Land Girls, a five-part drama and one of numerous programmes marking the 70th anniversary of World War II.

"Doing Land Girls was the most fun I'd had in a job for years," she says. "I always use Guys And Dolls, which I did with Ewan McGregor as a point of reference. That was wonderful for me but I think Land Girls topped it."

Following the lives and loves of four girls doing their bit for Britain in the Women's Land Army (WLA,) Summer plays Nancy, a cosseted rich girl conscripted into the WLA against her will.

"Basically at the beginning, Nancy is a pain in the backside," she laughs. "She's one of those girls who has finished school and is looking to find a husband. She takes a bit of a shine to the lord of the manor, Laurence Hoxley, played by Nathaniel Parker, and isn't secretive about it."

While Summer describes it as an honour to be involved in the series, she admits it was the chance to dress up in period costume that got her really excited.

"You get all the hairstyles and it's very feminine," she says.

"Nancy's trying to be Dorothy Lamour and even on the farm she's still got her coral lipstick.

"I hope Land Girls is my Darling Buds Of May," she continues, referring to Catherine Zeta Jones's success. "It's my second big TV project, so I'm as curious as anybody else is as to how well I do."

Land Girls starts later this month on BBC1 Dawn Collinson Dawn Collinson


SUMMER LOVIN': Summer Strallen in Land Girls
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 2, 2009
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