London, June 23 : Claire-Marie Hall, who gave up Oxbridge academia in favour of the stage, has landed the lead role of Gabriella Montez in the West End production of 'High School Musical'.
The British stage show, which opens at the Hammersmith Apollo for a 10-week run, is already close to selling out.
The 22-year-old actress, who has spent the past few months playing Cosette in Les Miserables, will star opposite Mark Henry-Evans as heart-throb Troy Bolton.
Hall was brought up in Newport, Wales, by her hospital manager mother and care assistant father, and was a self-confessed 'geek' at school.
"It's funny to get this part because I do have a lot in common with Gabriella. I did well in my exams and I was set on being a lawyer. My parents had suggested it because it was a solid job and I grew up thinking it was what I would do. I wanted to go to Oxford or Cambridge so I went for the open day, but I never got as far as the interview process because when I was 17 I had a change of heart and realised I wanted to be on stage," the Telegraph quoted Hall, as saying.
"It was a big step for my parents. I remember having to go down and tell my mum, who was upset. I had to write a list of pros and cons explaining why I wanted to do it. They were worried that it wouldn't be a steady job, but after drama school I went straight into Les Mis and I haven't been out of work," she added.