They climbed ev’ry mountain to headline The Sound of Music, and now Elicia MacKenzie and Janna Polzin are preparing to take on the next summit of their careers.
It’s been a year and a half since the pair rose from the ranks of relative obscurity to national stardom on the CBC-TV reality competition “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” and subsequently as the leads in the Toronto musical “The Sound of Music” (MacKenzie full-time, Polzin part-time).
Now that the stage show is drawing to a close on Jan. 10, both say they’ll likely break down when they say “So Long, Farewell.”
“Things don’t hit me until they actually happen, so I think I’m going to be bawling at the time, but right now I’m not thinking of it yet in that way,” MacKenzie, 24, of Surrey, B.C., said in a recent interview.
“It just doesn’t seem real that I’m not going to be able to be getting up on stage and singing all these songs every night anymore.”
MacKenzie has been the primary Maria in the show since it opened to critical acclaim in October 2008, performing in six shows a week and winning a Dora Award. She landed the role of the spirited nun-turned-governess by beating out thousands on the CBC-TV series in July 2008.
Polzin was the runner-up on the TV show, and was later announced as MacKenzie’s alternate, performing in two shows a week.
“I just hope I’ll be able to control my emotions,” said Polzin, 26, who hails from Woodstock, Ont.
“I hope I’ll be able to think as the character onstage instead of thinking as Janna: ’Oh God, this is the last time I’m doing this, or the last time I’m going to see this.”’
MacKenzie, a wide-eyed brunette who has a diploma in performing arts from Capilano College, recalls being “really nervous” and feeling “a lot of pressure” when she first stepped into Maria’s pinafore.
These days, she feels like she’s come into her own. “There is still that pressure but I’m a lot more comfortable,” she said.
For Polzin, a sprightly blond musical-theatre graduate, the experience has given her a sense of belonging in Toronto’s theatre industry. “You hear the cliche, ’You have to wait for your big break,’ and I definitely think this was mine.”
Both said they were surprised and saddened when they heard that the show would be ending in the new year.
“We were hoping and expecting that it would go a little longer, so it was a little bit of a shock to us all,” said MacKenzie.
“I could tell, obviously we weren’t filling our seats as well as we did when we first opened but that kind of comes with the territory,” said Polzin. “I am a little upset because it’s such a great show that everyone seemed to respond really well to. But the fact of the matter is that people just don’t feel comfortable spending the money on theatre right now.”
MacKenzie already has an enviable gig lined up for when the show ends: The lead role in the Toronto production of Rock of Ages, a five-time Tony Award-winning show that opens April 20, 2010.
Polzin doesn’t have a full-time gig awaiting, but she does have a couple of smaller theatre projects. She also wants to mount an art show featuring her own paintings.
“I think that’s one of the frustrating parts about coming out of the reality show is that people expect that because you’re a face they know and because you’ve gotten one lead that means that offers are going to be pouring in,” she said.
“Well that’s not the reality of our business, you still have to work just as hard.”