ALW of course didn’t write the score for this one, but he is (or was) producing a new production. It’s hard not to wonder what Rodgers & Hammerstein might make of the whole idea but if their estate -which is notorious in strict use of its works- has relented, then so be it.
Britain is seemingly full of young women who are all keen to skip the old fashioned method of hard chorus work, cattle calls and a stint at RADA if it means seeing their name in lights on the West End. They turn up in droves for these auditions: amateurs, first-timers and even ‘shop girls.’
On offer is a lifetime opportunity to play Maria Von Trapp in a way that Julie Andrews never delivered.
ALW reminds his hand-picked judges that he wants to believe his new Maria is a bit of a clown, a bit of a tomboy. “I want to believe she climbs a tree and scrapes her knee,” he insists. No room for nunnery here.
His judges include Producer David Ian, Vocal Coach Zoe Tyler and Actor John Barrowman (yes Torchwood fans, it’s a chance to see him in another light). They drill the girls through auditions, cutting them down to size with the quip, “You are not Maria!” or granting their dream with, “You could be Maria!”
I kept thinking “Gee it’s just as well they didn’t call this show ‘What Is It Maria You Can’t Face?'” -a somewhat notorious line of dialogue from the film that has wound its way into many comedy routines.
Holding our hand through it all is the effervescent Graham Norton, who feels every moment as the girls face those mean ole judges.
Like most audition shows, HDYSAPLM? can be car-crash telly. There are some rather talented discoveries, some disasters, some spirits crushed and some budding talents that you hope with a bit of nurturing might blossom into something. All of them make for entertaining storytelling.
Hovering above the whole thing is Sir ALW. He swoops in and out of the episode, taking time out from his other productions to check on progress. He is horrified by what he sees, which sees him become both ogre and saviour all at once. With his eccentric personality, and his awkward delivery, it all works a treat. Without someone like Simon Cowell on hand, ALW slips in perfectly.
With the success of The X Factor and Pop Idol, Britain ate up this show, rallying for its finalists and flocking to the performances and a new-found star. The entire marketing machine must have rolled over a glassy-eyed nation to perfection -so much so that ALW went on to cast productions of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Oliver!, and his Eurovision entry via television searches. This year he hunts for a new Dorothy (and her litle dog too) for The Wizard of Oz. Where will it all end?
Maybe next he could do a search for a new Composer?