Graham Norton is hosting a new BBC Saturday night show to find an undiscovered star to win the role of Maria in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new West End stage production of The Sound of Music.
The new live BBC1 show will put aspiring stars through a series of auditions, intensive training, live performances and a public vote.
Composer and theatre producer Lord Lloyd Webber will join the search for his new talent in How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?
Lloyd Webber recently revealed that he had decided to pull out of negotiations to get Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson to play the part, because although she had been keen, her “people” were against the plan.
Norton, who just returned to host his second series of Strictly Dance Fever since being poached by the BBC, said: “I’ll be there to mop the brows and do some serious handholding as we try and find that star-in-the-making.
“It will be a real rollercoaster for everyone involved. I’m thrilled to be along for the ride.”
Lord Lloyd Webber said: “I have always had a passion for discovering and nurturing new talent and this will be a fantastic opportunity for a young artist to become a real star.
“I’m particularly pleased that, for the first time, the search will be open to everybody.
“Never before have young musical theatre performers had such an opportunity to show their talents on prime time television.”
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? Will broadcast later this year.
West End producer David Ian, whose hits include Guys and Dolls, Grease, Saturday Night Fever and The Producers, will also help in the search for new talent.
Open auditions will take place in Belfast, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and London, where a panel of experts will whittle down the hopefuls to 50 potential Marias.
After being put through their singing, dancing and acting paces, only 10 will make it through to the TV shows.
Viewers vote for their favourite to win, but each week those with the least votes perform again for Lloyd Webber who has the chance to save one of them.
Money from the phone votes will create a bursary for aspiring musical stars.
Open auditions for the Von Trapp children – 14-year-old Friedrich, 13-year-old Louisa, 10-year-old Kurt, nine- year-old Brigitta, seven-year-old Marta and five-year-old Gretl – are also taking place at the London Palladium this week.
As well as Strictly Dance Fever, Norton has presented Points of View, a one-off Christmas special celebrating The Sound of Music, and his topical chat show, The Bigger Picture, for the corporation since he signed up in a reputed €5m deal.