Thousands audition in London for Lloyd Webber's production of 'Sound of Music'

Thousands of youngsters stood in line Thursday to audition for the roles of the Von Trapp children in Andrew Lloyd Webber's new stage production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "The Sound of Music."

Lloyd Webber, composer of hit musicals like "Cats" and "Phantom of the Opera," held open auditions for the parts of Friedrich, 14, Louisa, 13, Kurt, 10, Brigitta, 9, Marta, 7, and Gretl, 5.

By early Thursday, more than 2,000 youngsters were standing in line outside the Palladium Theatre and hoping for a part in the production, which will debut in London's West End. By later in the day, the number had doubled.

Among the first in line were Richard Smith and Natasha Bernard, both 13, who have already played siblings Jeremy and Jemima in the musical "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

"We both had butterflies this morning. I was a bit unsure about reaching the high notes, but we both got recalls," said Richard, from Luton, north of London.

Rosa O'Reilly, 16, from Kingston-on-Thames, west of London, auditioned for the part of Louisa, despite being a few years older than the character. After singing "On My Own" from "Les Miserables," she, too, was asked to attend a second audition.

"I've never done any of these auditions before because I haven't got my own agent and usually there's no open casting," she said. "I just heard about it on the radio yesterday and thought this is my last chance."

Ros Jones, who ran the auditions, said producers were initially looking for "people who can sing in tune and just have that little bit extra, that spark and that enthusiasm."

Lloyd Webber said he decided on open auditions after realizing that (composer) Richard Rodgers was not happy with the casting of the original stage production.

"He wanted a younger Maria, and that's what we're looking for. Someone who climbs trees, scrapes her knees," Lloyd Webber said.

"This is great for kids that come from any walk of life, not necessarily just showbusiness kids."

The second round of auditions will be held in a month, the AP says.

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