On television July 28, after months of competitions, 23-year-old Vancouver actress Elicia MacKenzie was revealed to be the top vote-getter and will jump into rehearsals as the novice who wins over a chilly Austrian family in the famed Rodgers & Hammerstein musical.
"I'd like to thank Canada for their votes and the judges who saw something that could get me this far," MacKenzie stated. "This has truly been the experience of a lifetime and I'm so very grateful."
After studying everything from vocal training to mountaintop twirling, Canadians voted for their favorite Maria.
The Canadian series mirrored an earlier series in the U.K. that sought to cast the West End revival of the show, produced by Lloyd Webber. MacKenzie almost went to school to become a massage therapist, but followed her heart and received a diploma in Performing Arts from Capilano College. When she was seven years old, her mom rented "The Sound of Music," and by the end of the week she knew the words to every song. The actress "looks up to Maria and believes everyone can learn from her positive nature and strength." MacKenzie likes to spend her time outdoors, reading or rollerblading.
"The 'problem' began in January 2008 with a national casting tour for the famous role of novice turned governess," according to series production notes. "Two hundred hopefuls were eventually brought to Toronto and whittled down to 50 who attended Maria School. Finally, ten talented young women performed weekly for the nation starting with the first live show on June 22."
The potential Marias sang, danced and excited Canadian viewers and a celebrity judging panel comprising maestro Simon Lee, vocal coach Elaine Overholt and Broadway and West End leading man John Barrowman.
"To see Elicia, the dark horse coming from absolutely nowhere and taking the competition in this way is one of the most thrilling things I have experienced in my five series of major reality television programs," stated Lloyd Webber. "I think [runner up] Janna [Polzin] is a wonderful artist but there is something about Elicia that has grown and grown throughout this series and I am convinced that she can take the role of Maria further than it has ever been taken. It is a credit to the supreme professionals who have worked in Canada with all the girls that a result so totally unexpected and so right has prevailed. This is a great night for reality TV and for musical theatre and I know it will have provided a platform for the finalists to have major careers in the theatre.
Lloyd Webber continued, "I am honored to have been associated with the program. The remarkable production values that CBC and Temple Street have brought to this format have more than matched the Emmy award-winning original."
"What a wonderful experience this has been," stated Canadian producer David Mirvish. "Not only have we had the chance to work with a brilliant, tireless and unflappable team of creative people at CBC and Temple Street Productions, but we have also been introduced to an amazing new generation of multi-talented young women, all of whom I'm positive will be the leading ladies on our stages and screens in the years to come."
"This show was a great success for the CBC," stated Kirstine Layfield, executive director of network programming. "Hundreds of thousands of Canadians tuned in each week to get to know these young women and to see their incredible talents on display. This has been an unforgettable experience for us and we congratulate Elicia on becoming the next Maria."
For more information about the series, visit www.cbc.ca/maria. For more information about the Toronto production, visit www.soundofmusiccanada.com.