Laughter, tears and screams for joy filled the Westin Hotel in downtown Vancouver last Friday, as aspiring theatre starlets auditioned for the lead role of Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of "The Wizard of Oz," opening at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto this December. The auditions were recorded as part of the CBC's competition series "Over the Rainbow."
Chelsea Rose Tucker was the first contestant to make it through to the next round. In her shiny short-sleeve button down blouse and Dorothy pigtails, she was elated.
Chelsea Rose Tucker auditions in front of Gorin (and media), scoring the first golden pass of the day
"It's a whole blur. She asked me what I'd like to sing, and I said I'd do some "Over the Rainbow", she asked what my range is for my voice and told me that my dress was too busy for the camera," Tucker said, who had just gotten off the live on-camera phone call with her mom. "My mom's bawling. She's probably just like me. She's probably just a mess," she said.
Tucker said that she had been preparing for the auditions for months.
"I've been following Mirvish's tweets,” she said. “I know the song very well and I've prepared it over and over again, I've sung it many times at different events and I also played Dorothy a couple of years ago."
Contestants came from all across BC. Standing against a wall in a lacy white dress was Kate Richardson, who actually went to high school with Tucker.
“I am really happy and excited for her and hoping I have the same luck,” she said, a nervous smile on her face.
"She told me it was really fun to be in there, so I'm feeling calm and relaxed about it," she said. She has also spent months preparing for this day.
Richardson's special pink shoes
“I have done my research, watched the film, looked into the character of Dorothy, watched countless YouTube videos of the UK version of this show, different renditions of "Over the Rainbow," and of course I sang it over and over and over again," explained Richardson. She even bought special pink pumps to match her lipstick.
The day was emotional not only for the contestants. Wizard of Oz casting director Stephanie Gorin was overcome with emotions throughout the day.
"Giving the girl the first ticket, I cried. She cried, I cried," she said. Out of the hundreds that auditioned, Gorin explained what she was looking for.
"She has to have a beautiful voice. She has to be able to sing 'Over the Rainbow,'" said Gorin.
She also stressed that she was looking for someone with youth, innocence and a great spirit.
"That age where just before they're going to become a woman and that spirit and the hope of what is yet to come," said Gorin. "And a good storyteller. That's an important thing as well — that she can sing the song and put across what it's about."
The auditions witll be held in Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax and Toronto next. Starting in September, host Daryn Jones will introduce the 10 finalists who will compete live on the Over the Rainbow Sunday nights on CBC Television, singing a mixture of Broadway and pop songs each week. Then, in half-hour results episodes on Monday nights, the bottom two Dorothys (as determined by an online public vote) will face-off and one participant will be saved from elimination by the judges. The competition will culminate in a showdown between the final three, with Lord Lloyd Webber himself in attendance, and Canada choosing the winner. Auditions for Dorothy's loyal canine pal Toto will be held at Woofstock, North America’s largest dog festival on Saturday, June 9.