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Norton combs the hills for Maria in BBC musical show

LONDON - BBC One is to host nationwide auditions to find the lead role of Maria in a new West End production of 'The Sound of Music', for its new Graham Norton- and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber-fronted show, 'How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?'

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Open auditions will take place in Belfast, Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and London in front of a panel of experts in the musical theatre industry to find the next Maria. A final 50 will then be whittled down to 10 to appear on the BBC show.

The 10 finalists will face a public vote to win a leading actor contract for the West End stage to play Maria in 'The Sound Of Music'. The contestants will be put through a rigorous programme of live singing, acting and dancing in front of a live studio panel to win the coveted prize.

The public will decide each week's winner, with Lloyd Webber able to choose one other from the nine left over.

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."

Norton promised he would be there to mop the brows and do some serious hand holding as he and Webber try to find that star in the making.

"It will be a real rollercoaster ride for everyone involved."

Further details of when the BBC's auditions will take place have yet to be announced. 'How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?' will air later in the year.

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