TORONTO - Hundreds of Little Cosette and Gavroche hopefuls, some in threadbare costumes befitting the poor 19th century French characters, showed up to an open casting call Sunday for an upcoming new Canadian production of "Les Miserables."
"I am more nervous than she is," Amy Pitcher of Cambridge, Ont., said of her auditioning 10-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, who donned a ragged dress and dirt on her face to depict downtrodden Cosette.
"I'm amazed and happy that it's an open audition, because it gives children like my daughter a chance to show what they have, even though they don't have an agent yet."
Organizers said some 270 young auditioners turned out for the chance to sing for the parts in Cameron Mackintosh's new 25th anniversary version of the Boublil and Schonberg musical, which Mirvish Productions plans to stage in Toronto in October.
"We've always found someone to be cast in a show from an open call," said casting director Stephanie Gorin.
"I've never not had an open call and found at least one person, whether it be an adult or child."
In some cases, the talent she's recruited from open casting calls have gone on to big things.
"Yvan Pedneault, who went on to do 'We Will Rock You' and 'Rock of Ages' and has toured now with the Queen show, he came from an open call," said Gorin.
Other examples include Danielle Wade, who's now starring in "The Wizard of Oz" in Toronto.
"There's been many through the years," said Gorin. "You never know where you're going to find someone. They just haven't had their break yet or they haven't managed to get an agent, haven't had those opportunities, and so their way in is through an open call."
Gorin said she held the open casting after a search through agents didn't yield as many children who could sing as well as act as she had hoped.
Those trying out for the part of Cosette, the orphaned and exploited daughter of Fantine who sings "Castle on a Cloud" in the show, had to be seven to 11 years of age and no taller than four foot five.
Hopefuls auditioning for the role of Gavroche, who joins the revolutionaries in Paris and is known for his tune "Little People," had to be seven to 11 years of age and no taller than four-foot-seven.
"I think it's about the spirit of the child, for one, whether they can connect to the material," said Gorin.
"And if they have a clean, clear voice, then the rest of it will come out in the wash."
For nine-year-old Madeline Lawrence of Toronto, who's only been in plays at summer camp, it was a chance to "just to experience what it's like to be auditioning."
"I just felt like it was a really good role and I think that I should have a shot at it," she said.
Ten-year-old Mbretjon Breznica of Woodbridge, Ont., said he watched the film four times to prepare for his audition.
He also sported a Gavroche-style outfit of suspenders, worn boots and newsboy cap to help his chances.
"This is my first audition now, so I'm really excited," said Breznica.
Ramin Karimloo of Richmond Hill, Ont., will star as Jean Valjean in the Canadian production of "Les Miserables," which is based on Victor Hugo's classic novel.
Quebec's Genevieve Leclerc will star as Fantine, a role she is playing in the U.S. tour.
Other cast members include Winnipeg's Samantha Hill as the older Cosette and Melissa O'Neil will star as Eponine.