April 9, 2005
'Lord of the Rings' auditions draw 2,000
By JIM SLOTEK - Toronto Sun
Andrea Moseanu auditions for a part in the Lord Of The Rings stage musical. - Craig Robertson, SUN
TORONTO - Outside the Estonian House on Broadview Ave. yesterday, 2,000 wannabe hobbits, orcs and elves lined the parking lot and driveway, like the hordes of Sauron preparing to attack Gondor.
Okay, actually, they were more like a lot of high school and college kids who cut class for an American Idol-like lottery shot.
The prize: A role in the Lord Of The Rings musical that makes its world premiere in Toronto next March 23.
Inside, hobbit status was looking a lot more like a possibility for 32-year-old Brent Buchanan. The ex-funeral director from Carmen, Man., had just finished a guitar rendition of the Billy Bragg song The Passion, showcasing a pleasingly folky baritone for casting director Stephanie Gorin.
"Were you measured out in the hall?" Gorin asked.
"No," Buchanan replied.
"Well, how tall are you?"
With that, Gorin broke into a smile and said, "We like that... Okay, Dylan's going to give you the sides to Pippin to learn, and we'll bring you back on Sunday."
A little later, reminded of the "we like that" comment on his height, Buchanan laughed and said, "I don't hear that very often."
Short men weren't the only items on the shopping list.
"We're looking for people who can play hobbits, who have great personalities, can sing and are under 5-foot-7," Gorin said. "They should be very physical because this is a very, very physical show.
"We're looking for a gorgeous-looking male," she said (adding, "Aren't we all?"), "who's maybe 5-9 or 5-10 with a beautiful voice, to play Legolas or Aragorn. And we're looking for Arwyn and Geladriel. And they, too, have to have beautiful voices. We're looking for nice, clear, clean voices without vibrato."
And yesterday morning, she was getting set to work through the night to find them. The 2,000 auditioneers completely dwarfed (hobbited?) the 450 who turned up in Vancouver recently on the same LOTR audition tour. (It hits Montreal next).
"This is the biggest turnout ever," Gorin said. "I worked Phantom open calls, Crazy For You, Rent, The Lion King. This is the biggest. I was hoping it would be just 1,000. It's an exhausting thought, but we have to get through everybody."
And the American Idol metaphor is accurate in some ways, in terms of the rejects.
"You always get people coming in who think they can do this and can't. I remember once a guy coming in with a wrench 'attached' to his pants, thinking it would make him sing higher. But people who come who aren't talented have the right to try like anyone else."
Making the odds even higher for most of the auditioners is the fact that Actors Equity members such as Buchanan get preference (and were sped through the lines). There were about 300 of them.
"Every production we've ever cast, we've found a few non-Equity people from open calls. You never know," Gorin said.
The odds didn't deter the crowds. Jordan Smith, Alysha Dupuis, Jasmine Tostolin and Oz Weaver cut class at London's H.B. Beal Secondary (and rehearsals for an amateur production of Children Of Eden) for the road trip, and were at the back of the line at 11 a.m. "I see myself in the chorus," Weaver said, with a laugh. "I can do Gollum's voice from the movie, but I'm guessing they want a new voice this time around."
Nick Kozij, 18, of Mississauga also aimed realistically. "I see myself as Soldier #6. I'd be thrilled to get that," he said.
Meanwhile, there is a second shot -- a "circus audition" in May for stilt walkers and acrobats to fly through the air in battle scenes. Argentina-born Guy Mansilla, 32 -- who's married to Shakespearean actress Florence MacGregor -- was killing the hours until his audition by juggling. He plans to hit both auditions.
"The truth is, I'm not a great fan of Lord Of The Rings," he said. "I love the symbolism and the wisdom, but I find it difficult to grasp the wisdom when they're killing 2,000 million people and animals in one scene. I'm not a fan of violence."
(well, damn... wish they'd told you about not wanting vibrato before you sang, Tig! And why did I not think to go there to pick up short men... *sighs* The original article is here: http://jam.canoe.ca/Theatre/2005/04/09/989001.html)