The Toronto production of The Sound of Music has unveiled a huge cast of 51 performers, to be led by Elicia Mackenzie, winner of the How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? reality series.
Theatre impresario David Mirvish, who is co-producing the musical with Britons Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian, introduced the cast Tuesday in Toronto.
The leading man, Capt. von Trapp, will be played by Burke Moses, a Bostonian who had the role of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast in both New York and London's West End.
And 12 youngsters have been cast as the six most junior von Trapp children, with two performers slated to play each kid, so they each appear in only four shows a week.
There were also roles for several veterans of the Canadian stage, including Blythe Wilson, a star of the Shaw and Stratford festivals, as the Baroness, and Keith Dinicol, a veteran of 24 seasons at Stratford, as Capt. von Trapp's friend Max.
Mezzo-soprano Noella Huet, who will sing Climb Every Mountain in the role of the Mother Abbess, gave a beautiful performance of the song at the cast announcement. She is a classically trained singer who has toured internationally with the Deux Mondes theatre company.
Megan Nuttall, a recent graduate of the University of Western Ontario, makes her debut in the role of Liesl, the oldest of the seven von Trapp children.
Jeff Irving, who has played at the Shaw Festival and earlier this year gave a rivetting performance in The December Man at Canadian Stage in Toronto, plays her boyfriend, Rolf.
Mackenzie, who was chosen for the role of Maria in the CBC reality TV show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, shares her huge role with Janna Polzin, who will play Maria at two performances a week.
The cast ranges in age from six on up and is so large that rehearsals are being held in four film studios, so that different parts of the show can be rehearsed a different times.
Moses, a baritone and a veteran of musical theatre, said he has no qualms about playing opposite a leading lady chosen by a reality TV show.
"They struck gold with this way of casting in London, and I don't think you should underestimate how tough this audition process was for her. I came in on a Thursday and was cast by the end of the day, but she had to work at it for weeks," he told CBC News.
Moses said that he has no preconceptions about how to play Capt. von Trapp — that his stamp on the role will emerge from rehearsals over the next six weeks.
"He's a man who's suffering from grief," he said. "He's lost his wife and now he's losing his country. He has everything on his mind with the exception of his children. Then this light comes into his household and brings with it music and joy back into his life."
Several of the child performers, ranging in age from six to 14, have been onstage before, but some are making their debuts with the show.
At the casting announcement Tuesday, they charmed reporters with a rendition of Do Re Mi with Mackenzie.
"I'm not shy at all," said Camden Angelis, 8, who is sharing the role of Marta. Angelis said she was "really happy" to get the role.
"The story in amazing. It's really funny in some parts, and all the people who are in the show are amazing," she said.
She shares the role with Addison Holley, also 8, who said she has appeared onstage in the annual dance recital at her dance school in Burlington, Ont.
She's already learned her role, she said, as she had to perform a scene and sing two songs for her audition.
Spencer Walker, 14, who plays Frederich, has already been on the Stratford stage in a production of To Kill a Mockingbird, but his counterpart, Simeon Vivian, 13, is to make his stage debut.
The rest of the von Trapp children:
- Louisa, played by Emily Hawton and Michaela Snoyer.
- Kurt, played by Michael Murphy and Matthew Tissi.
- Brigitta, played by Libby Adams and Ana Golja.
- Gretl, played by Mia Vanwyck-Smart and Amariah Faulkner.
The Sound of Music opens Oct. 15 at the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto.