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24 September 2014
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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?  
Many nuns on a mountain dressed as Maria

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? - from Saturday 29 July 2006, 6.50pm, BBC ONE


BBC ONE is shining the spotlight on the world of musical theatre with a nationwide search for a new West End Star – but with a twist.

  • the role is for real
  • the show is for real
  • absolutely anyone can try for the part but this time the public is the casting director.


Graham Norton is the master of ceremonies in a brand new live Saturday night show that is giving one plucky wannabe the chance of a lifetime – to win a professional lead role in a West End musical.


Legendary composer and producer Andrew Lloyd Webber and prolific theatre producer David Ian are bringing The Sound of Music - one of the most loved and known musicals of the past 50 years - back to the West End Stage and they are looking for a new 'Maria von Trapp'.


The role, made famous and iconic by Julie Andrews in the 1965 movie, will be a coveted one but this time the lord of the theatre and a panel of experts in the fields of music and theatre have relinquished their powers and given the decision to the viewing nation.


Who could take on such a famous role and make it their own?


Who would be the modern day choice for Maria?


Who can win over the public and show a spark of something special?


Who has the drive, guts and sheer determination to cut the mustard and win a six month standard leading role contract on the West End stage?


Thousands of potential Marias will be whittled down to just ten finalists who will then perform live each week for Andrew Lloyd Webber and a panel of three expert critics – including David Ian, one of the biggest theatre producers in the UK, John Barrowman, leading man and musical theatre stalwart, and Zoe Tyler, a tough vocal coach.


But most importantly they will perform in front of the nation, and it is the viewers who will vote each week for the person they want to see play Maria.


This time the professionals don't get the casting vote - only the viewers can decide.


Nun shall sing


Over the past few months - through open auditions, intense coaching, callbacks, and live performances - thousands of girls have battled it out to prove they have the talent and drive to be a new West End star and, more importantly, a new Maria von Trapp.


The open auditions


Totally open auditions were held across the UK in Manchester, Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff and London.


Whether trained actors, drama school students, or untrained raw talents – any one over the age of 17 could come and show what they could do - and they did!


Mums, students, actors, teachers, van drivers, checkout girls, singers, dancers (and even some men) tried their luck, gave it their all and sang for their supper.


Their nerves were out in abundance and the tension in the air was sliceable. There were tears of joy and disappointment as some went through to the next round and others did not make the grade.


The callbacks


Only 200 made it to the London callbacks where our expert panel held court while the plucky West End wannabes auditioned in front of their fellow potential 'Marias' to be the best and win a place at 'Maria School'.


Maria School


Only 52 made it through - and over an intensive four days of hard work they were given the opportunity to get exclusive vocal and drama coaching, put their voices through their paces... and were cruelly whittled down to just 20.


Performing for a Lord


Andrew Lloyd Webber invited the final 20 hopefuls to perform at his country home at Sydmonton where he held a garden party for friends and family.


Converted from a church into a small theatre, the setting of the performance had previously housed rehearsals for many of Andrew's shows and West End stars from Sarah Brightman and Jason Donovan to Michael Crawford had trodden the boards there.


The final 20 - some of whom had never sung to an audience before - had to show what they could do in front of the prestigious crowd which included a wealth of famous faces from stage and screen.


Then came the hard part - Andrew and our panel agonised over who deserved to be the ten finalists who would go through to the live show to be judged by the nation.


The final cut...


Now the ten final Marias will perform live every week, singing a range of themed songs in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the panel and the viewers to show that they have the voice, the skill and the guts to tread the boards for real.


Then the voting begins and the nation will decide who will go home and who could go on to the role of a lifetime.


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