From the farm to the mountains

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It’s one of the most memorable opening scenes of any musical. The curtain lifts, music swells and a lone voice sings one of the most iconic lines in musical history ‘The hills are alive with the Sound of Music’.

And every night when actress Verity Rushworth waits to take a deep breath and starts to sing she says her nerves start to jangle. “There is no warm up, not a few scenes to get into the swing of things before breaking into song. You are right there in the middle of it all from the very start and it and you have to just belt it out.

“Yes, there is no doubt it is scary.”

The actress, who audiences will know from her role as Donna Windsor in hit soap Emmerdale is taking on the role of Maria in the touring production of ‘The Sound of Music’, set to run at the Millennium Forum next month.

It is a role, she says, she is relishing and one which is very different to her former onscreen persona on the Lancashire based soap.

“I played Donna for 11 years, starting when I was just 12. So yes, I grew up on screen and and sometimes that was very awkward and really horrible,” she laughed, recalling how she hated wearing her braces on screen and going through some gawky teenage phases. “They cut my hair off when I started too, which I hated. It was horrible,” she laughed.

The bubbly actress said she really came into her own on the soap as she grew older and was able to play out a romance between her character and the loveable Marlon Dingle.

“Those were my favourite scenes on the soap.” she said. “Our on screen relationship was lovely and there was a lot of comedy to play out in the earlier years. Donna used to get herself into all sorts of trouble to try and attract his attention.

“Of course in later years the relationship got very series and quite tragic really as Donna had an affair but it was still brilliant fun and yes I do very much keep in touch with my former castmates.

“They all came to see me when I was in ‘Hairspray’ and they have told me they will be coming en masse to ‘The Sound of Music’ when the tour reaches leads.”

Verity’s decision to leave Emmerdale was not an easy one but she soon found her feet in the West End in the role of Penny Pingleton in the smash hit musical ‘Hairspray’.

“The two experiences are completely different,” she said. “Even down to your body clock. When you are on stage the whole focus of your day is on the evening and getting on stage to put on that performance.

“Of course you are also going through the same script every day and getting the immediate reaction of the audience which is brilliant.

“Theatre work gives you such a burst of andrenalin, it really is amazing.”

And another thing which gets Verity’s heart fluttering a little faster is her co-star in ‘The Sound of Music’ - Aussie heart-throb Jason Donovan. The pair joined the cast together recently and she said they have really gelled with the existing cast.

“Oh he’s lovely,” she laughed. “I hadn’t met him before and didn’t know what to expect but it has been such a pleasure to work with him. He is such a gentleman and so funny.

“He’s a bit naughty at times though - he always tries to make me laugh on stage!”

With two weeks of the tour under her belt Verity said she is settling into the role very nicely and feels “exceptionally lucky” to have landed such an iconic role.

“It’s every girl’s dream isn’t it? Well any girl who has an interest in musical theatre - to get on the stage and play the role of Maria.

“I’m here for six months and am aware of how fast time can go so I’m determined to enjoy every minute of it. I still can’t completely believe that I’m Maria.”

The Sound of Music appears at the Millennium Forum from Tues 15th March until Sat 2nd April. Tickets are now available from the Box Office. Telephone 71 264455 or visit www.millenniumforum.co.uk for tickets.