Casting Maria CBC's 'Problem' now

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TORONTO -- The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. has acquired format rights to the BBC series "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" unveiling plans Tuesday for a version of the reality competition that will cast a Canadian actress as Maria von Trapp in a Toronto production of "The Sound of Music."

The CBC series, to be produced by Temple Scott Prods., will air over eight weeks next summer before Toronto-based Mirvish Prods. brings Andrew Lloyd Webber's revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical to the Princess of Wales theater in September.

As with the BBC show, which saw Connie Fisher chosen to star in Lloyd Webber's "Music" revival in London, the Canadian producers of "Maria" will hold nationwide auditions before the best candidates are put in front of a panel of judges and Canadian TV viewers for voting and elimination.

Toronto's "Sound of Music" stage production will be led by director Jeremy Sams, choreographer Arlene Philips and designer Robert Jones, all of whom collaborated on the London production.

"It's a considerable acting role, there's a lot of dialogue. But primarily what we want is youth," co-producer Lloyd Webber said at a Toronto press conference.

The British composer said that he initially approached Scarlett Johansson to play Maria in the London stage revival but that her burgeoning movie career ruled out any stage performance.

That's when Lloyd Webber and co-producer David Ian decided to enlist the BBC in casting for the role.

Lloyd Webber added that the CBC's TV talent search will be good-natured. "We want to nurture. We don't torture," he said.

The British composer said his earlier musicals including "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera" performed well in Toronto theaters, and he believes the North American premiere of "The Sound of Music" in Toronto has a "good shot" at success.

Co-producer David Ian said Toronto was chosen for the North American premiere of "The Sound of Music" because New York has a current stage production of "South Pacific," another Rodgers and Hammerstein revival.
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