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Last Updated: Monday, 3 April 2006, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Norton leads TV search for Maria
Graham Norton
Norton hosted a celebration of The Sound of Music in December 2004
Graham Norton is to front a BBC reality TV show to find an actress to play the leading role in a stage version of The Sound of Music in London.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? will see Norton join forces with Andrew Lloyd Webber and West End producer David Ian in search of an unknown star.

"It will be a real rollercoaster for everyone involved," said Norton. "I'm thrilled to be along for the ride."

The presenter is currently hosting the second series of Strictly Dance Fever.

"I'll be there to mop the brows and do some serious handholding as we try and find that star-in-the-making," said Norton.

Nationwide auditions

The BBC One talent show will see stage hopefuls perform in front of a panel of theatrical experts at nationwide auditions, beginning in Belfast on 22 April.

Under the direction of a team of professionals, the final 50 will then be whittled down to a shortlist of 10 - with the eventual winner decided by public vote.

Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music
Julie Andrews played the singing governess in the 1965 film
"I have always had a passion for discovering and nurturing new talent and this will be a fantastic opportunity for a young artist to become a real star," said Lord Lloyd-Webber, who is behind the show at the London Palladium.

"Never before have young musical theatre performers had such an opportunity to show their talents on prime time television."

Money from phone votes will provide a bursary to help young people establish a career in musical theatre.

Lord Lloyd-Webber is behind musical hits include Cats, Evita and The Phantom of the Opera.

The role of nun-turned-governess Maria was made famous by Julie Andrews in the Oscar-winning 1965 film.

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