How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, the BBC One TV talent competition to find an undiscovered star to play nun-turned-nanny Maria in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of The Sound of Music (See News, 16 May 2006), begins this Saturday (29 July 2006), but already there’s speculation about the exact nature of the prize. According to internet gossipmonger Popbitch, the show’s producers are hedging their bets and have also offered the lead in the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic to an established stage actress who is likely to perform six times a week to the TV winner’s two times. In fact, neither Lloyd Webber nor the BBC have ever stipulated contract details for the TV winner. Many West End musicals, especially since My Fair Lady, already split their leading lady’s performance schedule in such a way. Given the demands of the part of Maria and the training required for a full West End run, it makes sense to follow suit on this occasion. If How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? does mine some real talent, being cast as an alternate lead could give the TV hopeful the time and experience necessary for developing a long-term professional stage career. We’ll have to wait and see. The TV programme, hosted on Saturday nights by Graham Norton, continues until 16 September 2006, when the publicly voted winner will be announced. The Sound of Music opens at the West End’s London Palladium on 14 November (previews from 4 November).