Advice from a Maria: Elicia MacKenzie

Now that we're half way through the competition, we thought it would be a good time to explore what's REALLY at stake.

What will winning this competition mean for one of our Dorothys?

What can the winner expect after this is all over?

There's really only one Canadian qualified to speak from experience in this matter... None other than golden voiced actress Elicia MacKenzie, winner of the 2008 hit CBC show'How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?'.

Actress Elicia MacKenzie, winner of 2008's 'How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?'

If you need refreshing, the aim of the show was to cast the role of Maria von Trapp in the Mirvish production of The Sound of Music, produced by (you guessed it) Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Dubbed 'the dark horse of the competition', Elicia beat out 2000 contestants and won over hearts across the nation on her way to landing the part. That, as it turns out, was just the beginning.

Her subsequent performance in 'The Sound of Music' drew huge praise from theatre-goers, and she even snagged herself a Dora Mavor Moore award, Canada's most prestigious prize for all things theatre, for Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Principal Role in 2009.

'The Sound of Music' ran for just over 2 years, closing in January 2010, and only a few months later MacKenzie went on to play Sherrie in the Mirvish production of 'Rock of Ages'. And in November 2011, she played Dorothy in Ross Petty Productions' version of The Wizard of Oz. How's that for a coincidence?

But Elicia is quick to throw credit back to where it all started. Asked if she thinks things may have turned out differently if she hadn't appeared on 'How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?', she laughs, 'I'd like to think I'd have gotten there anyway, at least I hope so! But it was a super huge opportunity for me to get my face out there and for people to notice me. I think it's a great thing Andrew Lloyd Webber is doing, bringing young talent out.'

Considering that MacKenzie was fresh out of theatre school at the time, the experience was also her first real introduction to the business. She was doing dinner theatre in Coquitlam when she got word of the 'Maria' audition. 'I got that ticket to go to Toronto and the rest is history', she jokes. She made it through Maria school and was one of the first to be selected in the Maria Top 10.

'It was very important for me in a professional way because we were working so hard that it sort of prepared you for what was to come next. I was still in school mode, still in learning mode, and I was just trying to suck up as much information as I could. We worked really hard on that show, and we didn't get a lot of rest. I feel for [the Dorothys] right now, I know what they're going through. It's mentally taxing, it's physically taxing, because you're putting your all into it.'

When asked if she had any advice for our young performers on Over the Rainbow, she didn't hesitate.

'Always be willing to learn and open yourself up to new things. And have that humble confidence, you know, nothing cocky, you don't need to be overconfident. But just a quiet confidence, that really does work in your favour, just knowing that you're special and you have something to offer. And just the exposure alone can be a huge step.'

But it all goes to show just how big something like the Over the Rainbow experience can be for young performers, and we're excited to see what the future holds for our Dorothys.

And what's next for Elicia? She's currently rehearsing 'Notre-Dame de Paris' in, well, Paris, and then the show previews in Moscow before touring Asia: 'It's basically a musical version of 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame', but we're doing it in English. I'm very excited to see Paris,' she adds.

You can check out a preview of her upcoming show on her website at and while you're there you can have a listen to her upcoming CD, where she covers a few tracks you may have heard of.

Elicia sends her support to all our Dorothys, and has a special message for Andrew Lloyd Webber, 'Oh, and tell Andrew if you see him that I'm still waiting for my tea party. It's been a couple years now and I'm not giving up!'

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