Kara Tointon is taking a break from rehearsing the timeless Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favourite Things,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and of course the show’s famous title song, at an East London studio. But not for too long, because the 32-year-old star will soon be on our television screens, performing as Maria in the original stage musical… Live!
Tointon is endowed with exactly the right kind of elfin charm to play the delightful singing nun who becomes governess to seven children before falling in love with their widowed father. The musical also has a very special place in the actress’ heart. As an 11-year-old she auditioned for the part of Louisa in the Westcliff-on-Sea Operatic Society’s production of the musical. “I’d just started doing drama and I went for the part and got it. It was the first time I’d done anything that professional. That was the moment where I thought, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do for a living’.”
Returning to the musical two decades later - this time in the lead role - is a lot of pressure, admits Tointon, who played Dawn in EastEnders before going on to take leading roles in Mr Selfridge on TV and Pygmalion on stage, and winning Strictly Come Dancing in 2010. Not only is it her first professional musical, but she is also having to follow in the footsteps of Dame Julie Andrews.
So does Tointon feel the burden of taking on the mantle (habit?) of Maria? “Julie Andrews is my absolute idol and one of the all-time greats, so you can’t make any comparisons. I went for a part in a piece I love. I never dreamed I’d get it. But I did. What do you say then? ‘I can’t do this’? Do I sit on the sofa at home watching it on TV and thinking, ‘Oh damn, I wish I was there’? Or do I say, ‘Damn it, I’m going to give it a go and do it’?
“It’s like Strictly. I was a massive fan, but it wasn’t something I really wanted to do because I was scared of it. But I ended up doing it. I let go and had the best time. I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s OK to push yourself into the unknown and go into the scary box. The Sound of Music is going to happen. Once the record button is pressed, I just have to go out there and enjoy it.”
The logistics on the night are going to be pretty scary - 19 cameras on three separate sound-stages will be rolling during the two and a half hour live show. Each soundstage contains two sets - the Abbey and the Alps in the first, the Villa Von Trapp and its garden in the second and the theatre and Maria's bedroom in the third. Tointon and her fellow cast-members - including Julian Ovenden as Captain Von Trapp, Katherine Kelly as Baroness Schraeder, Alexander Armstrong as Max Detweiler and Mel Giedroyc (whose sister Coky is the creative director on this project) as housekeeper Frau Schmidt - will be dashing between the three. The ad breaks will be crucial!
Costume changes will prove the biggest challenge, fears Tointon. "Logistically, the hardest bit is going to be the change between the moment where Maria and Captain Von Trapp get together and sing 'Something Good' and their wedding. We've got just four minutes to change. Luckily, there'll be quick-change stations in every corner!
“It’s scary but we’re inviting everyone at home to have a great night’s theatre and rather than travelling to the West End, we’re doing it in their living-rooms. It’s something very different and, I hope, refreshing. ”
A FEW OF KARA’S FAVOURITE THINGS
The cheesy answer is The Sound of Music. But I also love The Shawshank Redemption. That haunted me for days.
Favourite TV programme?
If I hadn’t become an actress, I’d probably have been an interior designer. I love Grand Designs. It’s always incredible to see the process from beginning to end and to watch how people end up spending three times more than they intended!
The reason I wanted to become an actress was because of Goldie Hawn. In every part she played, she invited you in. She had such warmth. You wanted to be her friend. I still want to be her friend!
Freddie Mercury was the ultimate showman – he was so magnetic. I love Queen’s, “The Show Must Go On.” That’s going to be the song I play on my way to the stage on 20 December. I’m going to be wearing a robe like a boxer on the way to the ring!
The Sound of Music Live is on Sunday 20th December at 7:30pm on ITV