How do you solve a problem like Maria?

I'll say it - I was very skeptical about this program when I first heard about it. I think I was especially ticked off by Andrew Lloyd Webber defining it as being innovative. Not to mention I had to see the promo ad nauseum when I was working at the Princess of Wales.

But the one thing I loved about that promo was the brief shot we'd get of John Barrowman, who was one of the judges of the UK version of the show. I had discovered him after an appearance in Doctor Who (as did many people) and then found out he was a West End star. I tracked down promo appearances on the web and just fell in love with his absolute joy in everything he does. The fact that he's attractive doesn't hurt either. Then I saw his performance in Putting it Together, a Sondheim compilation night, and that completed it. I was hooked.

Then he was announced as one of the judges for the Canadian version and my opinion shifted to one of excitement. A chance to see Mr. Barrowman up close? No way I was missing out on that.

So I found myself at the first public appearance of the 10 finalists of the show. Not that I noticed them. I was all about watching John Barrowman do his thing. He made a comment during the event that I just loved, "reservations should be left in a hotel lobby, not on stage".

I caught him doing an interview afterward and was really impressed by what he had to say. He was very careful to define it as an entertainment show, not a reality show. He said they were all talented and it was a matter of finding the right person for the role. They had chosen different types as part of that.

He talked about how the program was a way to create a Canadian stage star. And that gave me a bit of pause. Because it's true, we really don't have a system for that. And most of the people you would identify as Canadian stage stars had a high-profile television series - Cynthia Dale being the best example of this. So he was really on to something.

Then I saw the show itself. The early episodes showed us what training and feedback they were getting instead of mocking those who had auditioned. And once we got into the "reality" part of things, while I sometimes disagree with what the judges say about performances, I can't disagree that they know their stuff.

I did get to attend a taping and it turned out to be a wonderful experience, even if it was annoying that they wanted us to cheer and boo during the judges talking. That's really the one element I don't like, the amping up of the audience to the point of having them distract from what people are saying or singing. (They give people candies as they go in to get them on sugar highs.)

It's certainly been an interesting way to audition for a role. I've been on a discussion board talking about the show and one person keeps saying that he doesn't think any of them can do the role. The ones who have made it this far aren't novices, and I think there's one who can.

The other thing that is disturbing to me is that apparently they've held off on casting the role of the Captain. I can understand it on one level. You want to make sure the Captain has chemistry with Maria, so you need to wait until she is cast. Yet I hate that for a show that requires a year-long commitment, people are having to wait until the last minute to know that they're doing it and having to turn away other work in the meantime on the off chance that they may be in.

The show has done its job. I didn't want to have anything to do with The Sound of Music at the beginning but now I'm curious as to how the winner is going to do the role. It definitely is an effective way to sell tickets.

And every week, I adore John Barrowman more and more. I'm going to be sad to see the show go for just that reason.

For a taste of the show, here's a bit of Maria school, featuring the aforementioned Mr. Barrowman:

And yes, in my previous post I talked about not being too long between posts, then I wait a week. But soon we're launching Umbrella Talk, so keep your eyes peeled!


Marcia Johnson said…
MK, what a great article. I'm glad that you brought up the point abut the Captain not being cast yet. I didn't know that. Rehearsals start soon and any baritone good actor out there just might have worked already lined up. Will they have to settle for someone who's just OK? I think they'll end up buying an American or Brit out of his contract.

But, I'm with you. I'll definitely scrape up the money (or beg for comps) to see the production.

Ciao fellow JB fan.

Carol said…
I'm disappointed that Janna didn't win. While Elicia did improve, I found most of her performances to be forgettable. I'm not surprised by the result, though, since there seemed to be a definite "anyone but the other J" vibe out there -- those who liked Jayme didn't like Janna, and vice-versa -- so I suspect most of Jayme's voters went to Elicia.

The Star had a blurb about the casting of the Captain and Baroness: Burke Moses (an American I don't know) and Blythe Wilson.

I heard on CBC news this morning that Simon wasn't around for the last two shows because he was arrested: charged with assault and forcible confinement. That's not quite the kind of publicity the show was hoping for today, I'm sure!
MK Piatkowski said…
Marcia, you called it. They did buy up an American for the Captain.

Carol, I agree. I think Jayme's votes shifted to Elicia. And it is rather shocking about Simon. I'm glad they kept that under wraps until the show was concluded. The people involved in the production are now doing damage control, which involved firing Simon from the show.
Carol said…
Hm. Janna will be playing Maria on Wednesday evenings and Saturday matinees. I hadn't intended to go even if she had won, but now I'm tempted.
MK Piatkowski said…
I think it's a great solution. Connie Fisher, the winner of the UK contest, did all 8 shows for 6 months then had to cut back.

This way, those of us who didn't want to see the show because Janna lost now have a reason to go. Thus selling more tickets.

I also find it really interesting which shows she is doing - Wednesday night and Saturday matinee. So Elicia does the show with the cheapest prices, then Janna does one of the slow nights and the next cheapest matinee. So it's affordable for fans of each girl. And this way, Elicia isn't doing more than one show a day, which can only help as she's never done a run like this, as far as I know.