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'Rehab' song and red ties at open casting for Rob Ford musical

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TORONTO - Dressed in suits with red ties and armed with monologues about smoking crack and songs including Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," hopeful stars of "Rob Ford The Musical: The Birth of a Ford Nation" put on their best impersonations of the embattled Toronto mayor Monday at an open casting call for the upcoming show.

"I have an uncanny resemblance," Neil Sarel, a self-described "country boy" who runs a small vending machine company in Caledon, Ont., said of why he wanted to audition.

"When this was announced that they were doing a musical, all my friends were like, 'You gotta go, you gotta go,' so I was like, 'You know what — why not?' It could be a door that opens another door to another door, right?"

Travis Hay of Toronto also hoped a resemblance to Ford would boost his chances.

"We both have the same triple chin, so that helps, and the hooded eyes," said the intern at radio station KiSS 92.5, who put his own spin on "Rehab" during his audition, mixing in lines including "Listen, I'm not an addict" and "I'm not resigning" between musical phrases.

"The resemblance to Rob Ford, it's fun. I mean, it's a joke. I have another buddy who looks like him, takes it very personally. I don't, it's fun."

Brett McCaig and P. Joseph Regan are writing the book and lyrics while Anthony Bastianon is penning the music to the comical stage show, which is set to run at Toronto's Historic Factory Theatre from Sept. 16 to Sept. 28.

With Ford's life taking many unexpected turns, the latest being his treatment for an admitted alcohol problem, the creators said they've left the final few pages of the story blank as they wait to see what happens.

They insist the show isn't about bashing the mayor, whose slew of antics range from admissions of trying crack cocaine and using drugs while in office, to being caught on multiple cellphone videos appearing intoxicated and uttering profanities on national TV.

"Rob Ford is sometimes portrayed as just a two-dimensional character, but he really is a full three-dimensional character. He has a lot of sides to him. What we're trying to do in the show is show different sides of the whole story," said Bastianon, who has written 10 original songs in the genres of pop, rock and country for the show.

"We hope the 'Ford Nation' comes and sees the show, because I think they'll enjoy it as much as anyone else."

Besides Rob Ford and brother Doug, other characters in the show include a police chief, the media, a prominent lawyer, novelist Margaret Atwood, a newspaper editor and a "spiritual guide" named Transgression (a.k.a. Tranny) who stands as "the voice of reason." Creators say the cast members have to be able to sing, dance and act.

Monday's open "colour-blind casting" for the roles of the Ford brothers and Tranny drew in a diverse group of professional and amateur actors of a wide range of ages and nationalities.

Toronto-based Amber-Kelly Mackereth didn't let her gender deter her from trying out for the role of Ford.

"Bobby Ford, right here. That's right, check it," she said as she shook her padded posterior. "If Rob Ford was a girl, I think it could work."

Hopefuls showed up from as far away as Montreal and Ottawa, where Geoff Stone lives. His monologue riffed on Ford's myriad scandals while his audition song was his own original tune called "Drunken Stupor," which the music producer/singer-songwriter said will be on his upcoming album.

"I'm sorry for all the times that I lied, even when caught red-handed I still denied," he sang before launching into the chorus: "I was probably in a drunken stupor, oops, I made a blooper, I'm a drug abuser and now it's all over the news."

— Follow @VictoriaAhearn on Twitter.

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