STAGE star Lauren Samuels was last seen on television screens battling to be named Dorothy in talent search Over the Rainbow.
After weeks singing live in front of millions and for musical maestro Andrew Lloyd Webber, she landed a place in the final of the 2010 BBC programme to find a musical theatre performer to appear in The Wizard of Oz.
The 26-year-old eventually came third, embarking on a successful career and will call into the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, later this month to perform in a musical being staged outside the West End for the first time.
Love Story, on from Thursday, June 19 to Saturday, July 12, sees two worlds collide when spirited Italian-American Jennifer Cavilleri and wealthy, privileged Harvard alumni Oliver Barrett IV fall in love.
Lauren, who plays Jennifer, said: “I had just come out of drama school when I auditioned for Over the Rainbow.
“I had made my professional debut but not my West End debut.
“When these auditions came up for Dorothy, I thought why not, I will give that a shot. It opened up a lot of doors.
“I was lucky enough to perform every week in front of the Lord. I definitely don’t regret it.
“He knows everyone and everyone knows him. When you do a show like that, there are bound to be lots of writers, directors, producers watching and asking him for his opinion on us. They trust him and value his opinion.”
Lauren went on to play Scaramouche in We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre in London from late 2011, reprising the role for the musical’s 10th anniversary tour.
She said: “I’ve done shows that are a lot more challenging vocally than (Love Story). This seems to be really taking it out of me.
“Doing We Will Rock You, Freddie Mercury wrote some amazing songs, but they are ridiculously difficult to sing.”
Love Story is inspired by Erich Segal’s best-selling novel and subsequent 1970s hit film which is widely regarded as one of the most romantic and moving of all time.
This stage version, by Stephen Clark, features a brand new score by Howard Goodall and Lauren will appear alongside Daniel Boys, a contestant on 2007 BBC talent series Any Dream Will Do, as Oliver.
Although a story of love in the face of adversity, due to family opposition and devastating personal tragedy, the musical adaptation is said to be a life-affirming celebration of young love with plenty of humour along the way.
Speaking of rehearsals, Lauren said: “It’s going really well. We are slightly stressed with the sheer amount of material that Daniel and I have got to learn.
“When we were talking to the writer, on the phone, he said, well really it’s a two-hander just helped by the ensemble.
“It’s really emotionally draining as well, this piece particularly. I think we come home every single night from rehearsals and we’re exhausted — not through physical activity but through emotion.
“There have been many tears already. It’s so hard to sing when you feel like you’re going to cry and your throat closes up.
“I’ve been making some interesting sounds.
“It’s a really human story about love and loss.
“It’s two love stories.
“It’s a love story between Jennifer and Oliver who are obviously polar opposites that fall in love against all odds but it’s also a love story between Oliver and his father, that difficult father and son relationship they have.
“I hope it connects with the various audience members in different ways.”
Love Story, directed by Elizabeth Newman, is at the Octagon from June 19 to July 12, call 01204 520661 or visit octagonbolton.co.uk for tickets.