Posted at 2:27 PM on September 17, 2006
by Euan Kerr
The other evening I joined millions of other Britons in watching the culmination of what could be a dangerous cultural phenomenon.
"How do you solve a problem like Maria?" bears a resemblence to that show where INXS auditioned a new lead singer. "Maria" potentially could have much more impact however because the prize was the lead in the new West End production of "The Sound of Music" directed by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber himself.
While the prize is a stage production, the TV show played the film connection to the hilt. Each week it opened with a Julie Andrews figure twirling through that Alpine meadow just like the opening of the film. Sadly for the Julie impersonator, she is quickly joined by a couple of dozen others, who then launch into an outrageous punch-up, pulling blond wigs off each other and dunking at least one Maria-wannabe in the gently bubbling stream.
The final opened with the final three contestants karate chopping their way through the "How do you solve..." song, disposing of the other seven finalists who were eliminated in earlier shows.
Apparently 6,000 people tried out for the show, which was judged by the usual group of hyperbolic "experts" plus the nervous gnome-like figure of Lord Webber himself, who had the power to overrule the panel.
All in all it was quite creepy, perhaps even worse than "American Idol" in a way because it all swirled around "The Sound of Music." One of the most cheering things I saw though was the pair of cross-dressing nuns in the audience.
Eventually after a bunch of songs in the final (during which the top two sand "So Long! Farewell!" to the number three contestant as she was eliminated) 23-year old Connie Fisher took the prize. She says she's wanted this role since she was four years old. Some people might not wish this on their worst enemy.
Who knows, she could be a big success. I believe Sean Connery ("Big Tam" as he was known here in Edinburgh when he was a milkman) won the James Bond role in a newspaper competition. The rest as they say is history.
Now, given the way that "Pop Idol" in Britain migrated to become "American Idol" it seems almost inevitable that "How do you solve a problem like Maria" will soon be crossing the pond. It probably won't be the same musical, but it will probably be something well loved which will be twisted and pounded into the reality show mold.
You have been warned.
You have written a load of rubbish - it is obvious from your comments that you haven't seen much of the series and it is very differnt from shows designed to belittle the contestants. All these girls were accomplished performers and it was refreshing to see them improve week by week. Lord Lloyd W is a man of great talent who has revolutionised british musical theatre - please don't make cheap jibes at him he has earned the right to be treated with respect.
I and millions of other viewers thought it was a great show and I have to say I voted for a contestant for the first time.
I was unfortunate enough to watch a number of the shows. You have hit the nail firmly on the head.
Rest of the World,
True, I only saw the one show, and I don't deny the shows were no doubt entertaining if you like that sort of thing. I believe Connie Fisher will do very well in the Maria role.
I am more concerned about the growing phenomenon of creating cultural icons by encouraging people to watch TV and then voting by phone. What's next? Artists appearing on TV vying for a show at the Tate Modern, or MoMA? Orchestras pimping for the Last Night of the Proms?
It's coming, I tell you! It's coming!