Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Maria" Problem Solved!

For the record, I have to state that I am not a fan of so-called "reality shows" on TV. I've especially avoided the various "American Idol" type talent shows, mostly because I can't abide contemporary pop music. However, a recent addition to the reality show genre did intrigue me enough to tune in earlier this summer. CBC started showing "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?"- a talent search for the leading role in a big stage revival of "The Sound of Music" to be produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, no less, here in Toronto. It's based on a previous talent search that successfully aired in Britain on the BBC some time ago.

Being a Baby Boomer myself, I grew up in the tail end of the Hollywood musical era, when film adaptations of hit stage shows were still big box office. So, yes, I saw "The Sound of Music" when it originally played in movie theatres back in 1965. I believe I saw it again in a rerelease a few years later, which is when I probably understood better what it was all about. Around that same time I also saw "My Fair Lady", which still ranks first on my list of favourite musicals. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to see what type of talent would be on display in this CBC search, so I tuned in from the first show. By the time they'd pared down a possible 20 to the 10 young ladies who would compete on the weekly show, I was hooked. It has been a real delight to see all these wonderful girls sing their hearts out each week, hoping to make it through to the following week.

Of course, that's also the problem with the series, for in order for one girl to win, nine must lose. And so it went that I'd enjoy the hour long Sunday night show, watching the ladies perform, and then cringe a bit at the end of the half hour Monday show, where two girls would have to do a sing-off based on the lowest number of votes cast, resulting in one being eliminated by the judges. There is something inherently cruel about the process, which is why I still don't much care for the whole reality show concept. Even though some of the girls may not have had the right stuff, I did not like to see any of them hurt, as they were all quite adorable.

I'll admit I had my favourite, but once they'd whittled it down to three final contenders by last week, I was convinced that any one of the three would have been ideal in the role. These three girls pictured above are the final contenders, Jayme Armstrong, Janna Polzin and Elicia MacKenzie.

So here I'll reveal Janna Polzin as my favourite choice for the role. I liked her right from the start, as there was a very professional air about her. Not only blessed with a beautiful singing voice, but Janna seemed to have an instinctive flair for the performance in delivering her song material through strong expressions and body language. I also found out along the way that Janna just happened to be a graduate of the Musical Theatre program at Sheridan College, at the same campus where I teach in Animation. In fact, in researching her, I realized I'd actually seen two productions at Sheridan that she'd appeared in, though she was only in the chorus so I couldn't recall her. I'm a big fan of Sheridan's program, and try to show my support by seeing the shows whenever I can. I know a couple of the girls who would have been Janna's classmates, and I'm also friends with Sarah Cornell, a grad from a few years ago who went on to star in the Toronto run of "The Producers", of which I wrote about in a previous post. Yeah, I'll admit I'm a sucker for pretty gals who can sing and dance - they're my feminine ideal!

Janna did in fact make it into the final round this weekend, and she'd been considered the front runner for awhile, I believe. But it was not to be, for last night the winner was announced and it was.....

....Elicia MacKenzie!

Fact is, though she may not have been my pick, I still think that Elicia richly deserves the role. She too has been blessed with a wonderful voice and seemed the most adaptable to whatever type of song they chose for her to sing. Whereas Janna seemed the more seasoned professional, Elicia is still that diamond in the rough, though I've no doubt she will rise to the challenge and be ready for the stage this fall. She is certainly a fresh faced, wide eyed beauty, and very much the image of the Cinderella who has well earned her "happily ever after". I think Elicia was more surprised than anyone when it was her name that was read from the envelope and her victorious performance at the show's finale of the title song from "The Sound of Music" was just magical. I wish Elicia much success and look forward to seeing her on stage as Maria!

Here are video clips of both Janna and Elicia, courtesy of YouTube:


Tammy Chomiak-Robson said...

Hi Pete, I didn't follow the show from the beginning but I did catch the last few episodes. It definitely had a different feel from the other reality shows, a better feel for sure. I love the caricatures you did of the two contestants, you captured them perfectly. I really enjoy your blog, its definitely one of my favorites to follow faithfully.
- Tams (Stacey Chomiaks friend)

Alex. G said...

Hate reality shows myself to. Can't understand why they keep being made.
Anyhow, love your drawings, such a wonderful art style.

Pete Emslie said...

Hi Tams!

I must admit, the "reality show" aspect of the series still bothers me. It's one thing for a performer to be turned down for a role in the privacy of a casting office, but quite another to be eliminated from the competition on national television. You could see the hurt in some of the girls' eyes, some fighting back the tears.

My main reason for tuning in each week was to see the girls all perform on the Sunday night shows. Frankly, I think we need to bring back variety shows to TV, so that young performers have a regular venue to show off their singing and dancing skills. I was lucky enough to grow up in the era of "The Ed Sullivan Show" and hour long music variety shows hosted by the likes of Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Carol Burnett, etc, etc. And of course, "The Tonight Show", when Johnny Carson was still king! It was a time when music performers were a lot more glamorous and classy than the ones we see on TV these days.

Art by Andy Bauer said...

I hadn't heard of this show. I love musicals so it would have been on my top DVR list to record!

Maybe it didn't air in the states. I'm in Florida.

Loved seeing your drawings as usual!

Pete Emslie said...

Andy - No, you wouldn't have seen this series down in Florida, that's for sure. Being on the Canadian CBC network, it's likely that only some of the border states would have access to it.

Norm said...

I love your caricatures of Janna and Elicia. You have inspired my five year old granddaughter to create her own and is drawing as I write.
I hope you don't mind that I attempted to post the link on Janna's fan site but being new at this, it appears I did it all wrong. Thanks for stepping in.

Jamie said...

Being a musical theatre grad myslef, I was tuning in fairly regularly to catch the contending Marias, and to drool at the idea of working with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

I have to say, though, Elicia was my pick. She was very honest in her acting, even if Janna could command a stage like no one's business.

I'm hoping my ex-co-workers at the Princess of Wales can hook me up with tickets for opening night! Three cheers to good connections!

Jamie said...

p.s. Saw Sarah in The Producers, and she was amazing!

Pete Emslie said...

Hi Jamie,

That's really neat that musical theatre is also in your background. Hah - that means I'm expecting a lot more from you in terms of "performance" in your upcoming character design assignments! I look forward to having you in my class in September. :)

Incidentally, I'll be seeing Sarah Cornell this Wednesday in "Little Shop of Horrors" playing at Stage West.

Dipesh said...

Hey Pete! long time no see or talk..hehe. I heard from some of my friends that you had a blog so i decided to check it out. Great work as usual. Glad to see your teaching at sheridan, those luckey students! Hope all is well and maybe if your in the downtown area we can go for a coffee or something.