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West End dream becomes reality for unknown actress

It is the stuff that dreams are made of - the star pulls out of a West End show and the unknown actor is plucked from oblivion to play the leading role.

But for Carli Norris, 24, the dream became reality yesterdday, when she was cast as Eliza Doolittle in a new production of Pygmalion, after Emily Lloyd pulled out at the last minute.

Lloyd, 26, who starred in the film Wish You Were Here, was the original choice for the part, but withdrew after a dispute with her co-star/producer Roy Marsden.

The actress, who is in danger of becoming better known for the parts she has lost than those she has played, said simply: "I thought it was the honourable thing to do in the circumstances."

However, the show's director, Giles Havergal, was the first to walk out. It was reported that he found Miss Lloyd impossible to work with.

"If there was any contention, it was my relationship with a certain member of the cast," was all Miss Lloyd would say. "I was 100 per cent prepared. This role had been a dream of mine since longer than I can remember and I wanted it to be brilliant."

Bill Kenwright, the producer, held auditions for six days before choosing Miss Norris, who beat off challenges from several more established performers.

The unknown actress, from Woodford, Essex, is understandably delighted at having landed the part.

"I learned the part of Eliza the weekend before the auditions as I wasn't sure which scene they might want me to do.

"I'm so excited about this marvellous chance. Working for Bill Kenwright with a cast like this is beyond my wildest dreams."

Miss Norris, who graduated from Rada just two days ago, will share the stage with Michael Elphick and Barbara Murray.

George Bernard Shaw's play centres on Professor Higgins' bet with Colonel Pickering that he can transform a Covent Garden flower girl into a lady fit to be presented at court. While the play has remained popular, it was as a musical, with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, that it became best-known.

Pygmalion previews at the Albery Theatre, London, from 23 July.