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24 September 2014
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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? 
Simona Armstrong

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? finalists

Simona Armstrong, 28

From Romania. Lived in Glasgow and now in Greenford, London
Occupation Actress/receptionist
Family Two sisters - one older and one younger, and Scottish husband Ian.
Experience Vocal training at Bucharest Academy. Acting roles in Romania and the UK.


Born and raised in Romania, Simona is a passionate woman who puts her all into every performance. She is trying to make a career as a full time actress and has had some small TV roles.


Simona has had two years of Romanian pop and classical vocal training at the Bucharest Academy, an extremely prestigious performing arts school. She completed two years of a four year course before moving to the UK.


She is from a very musical background - her mother and sister sing and her grandmother was an actress. Simona's family are still in Romania and she misses them a lot.


Simona is married to Ian, a personal trainer, who is "her greatest support" – she met him whilst living in Glasgow – a city she holds very dear to her heart.


Simona finds casting in England difficult because of her accent but this is something she is working on. She loves a bit of karaoke and Abba songs but her favourite music genres are soul and jazz as they are full of passion.


She loves playing volleyball with the neighbourhood kids and, other than performing, her ambition would be to be a lawyer or journalist.


When did you first realise you had a talent for singing?


When I was in kindergarten, I had to do lots of shows that included singing and performing. I got a very positive response (I was quite surprised!), all the kindergarten teachers wanted me to be in their performances as well, even if I wasn't in their class!


What is your favourite musical?


Little Shop of Horrors.


Who is your favourite character in a musical and why?


Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors because she never gives up her dream and she always follows her path. That's very important for me.


What qualities do you have similar to those of Maria?


Her vulnerability, her confidence, her spirit and, most of all, her honesty inside.


Why should you be the next Maria?


Because I really do love everything about this musical. It is so much me - it's a dream, it's a love story, it's also working with children which is a big satisfaction for me.


How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? 
Siobhan Dillon

Siobhan Dillon, 21

From Staffordshire
Occupation London College of Fashion student/promotions girl
Family Younger brother Liam.
Experience Singing lessons age 10-15.


Extremely stylish and cool, Siobhan is currently in her first year of BA Hons in Product Design (she designs handbags) at the London College of Fashion.


On her 10th birthday, Siobhan asked for singing lessons, and had vocal training once a week for two years and her talent progressed from there. Two weeks before the Maria auditions she decided to cram in some more lessons to get back in shape.


She is a songwriter as well as a singer and has submitted some demos to record companies.


She used to perform in her school shows but thought that she would not make it in music or theatre as it was such a huge and competitive world which is why she turned to fashion.


After hearing a tape of her singing, Michael Parkinson insisted that Siobhan sing at his charity cricket ball three years ago, after which she got a standing ovation.


Siobhan currently lives in a student house but comes from a very tight-knit family – her dad Michael is Irish (from Dunleary), and she is extremely proud to have Irish blood.


Her mum is a drama teacher and the Irish side of her family are extremely musical. She describes her musical tastes as "random" - anything from John Denver to Massive Attack but Shania Twain will always be her idol.


When did you first realise you had a talent for singing?


When I was nine I took part in my babysitter's gala concert, raising money for her to go to drama school. I sung Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee from Grease (after having auditioned for her in my pyjamas just before bedtime one Friday evening!)


What is your favourite musical?


Starlight Express and Blood Brothers (Can I have two? Sorry!)


Who is your favourite character in a musical and why?


Esmeralda [ Notre Dame de Paris]. She is a beautiful gypsy character with a wonderful heart and a sensual streak also.


She is strong-minded and free-spirited and it is because of this that she attracts much male attention!


The story is a tale of lust, love and injustice. The songs she and the rest of the cast sing are powerful - not just musically but emotionally.


What qualities do you have similar to those of Maria?


The desire to help other people whenever possible; the drive and ambition to succeed. And optimism - every cloud almost always has a silver lining. This is one thing people always pick up on when they first meet me - apparently I'm quite unusually optimistic!


A degree of uncertainty but a lot of excitement about where this whole experience will take me! Dedication in my beliefs.


Why should you be the next Maria?


It's the one character I have always dreamt about playing but never imagined that I would be given the opportunity. I can associate with her free-spirited yet rational character.


To see problems and attack them with enthusiasm and strength... Her desire to feel complete... Ultimately, to find the place where she really belongs.


I have grown up with the music - my Nana used to sing Edelweiss to me when I was very young. I would give it 110% and would enjoy every moment of it.


I believe I have the talent to do it... I definitely have the ambition! I just can't wait to get stuck into the blood, sweat 'n' tears - the real training!


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