Barrowman, Ian and Tyler are BBC1 Maria judges

Liz Thomas

John Barrowman, David Ian and voice coach Zoe Tyler, who has worked with stars such as Elton John, Rod Stewart and Will Young, are to join Andrew Lloyd Webber on the judging panel for BBC1 talent show How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

The programme, which has been billed as a Pop-Idol style search to find a star for the upcoming revival of The Sound of Music, will be hosted by Graham Norton and broadcast later this summer.

Thousands have auditioned at the five open national heats across the country with only 200 getting though to the London callbacks. A final ten will go through to the live TV show where the viewers will get the chance to vote for the one that will win the lead role of Maria in the West End show, which opens later this year.

The programme has come under fire from Equity and a number of performers for encouraging non-professionals to compete for a job in the West End. The union said that it had told both the BBC and the Really Useful Group that the only way to choose a performer was through an audition process in front of professionals and branded the show “demeaning”.

“I would much rather that this programme was never made and I am certain that the majority of my members would agree with me. Some may call this reality TV but this is as far from the reality of being cast for a West End show as it is possible to get,” commented general secretary Christine Payne.

Equity also raised its concerns with the Society of London Theatre, which represents West End producers. However, Ian insisted the show was a serious proposition. Earlier this year he said: “As a theatre producer, I know the hard work that goes into musical theatre and how very important it is to keep finding new talent for these starring roles.”

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