Director Anton Luitingh surveys dozens of hopeful child actors at the Grand Theatre at Marina Bay Sands.
"Discover a British accent. Get rid of any other accent you have," he says. "Why is this necessary? Because you want people to believe you're Austrian."
Welcome to the wacky world of auditions for The Sound Of Music, where cultural authenticity is less important than creating a musical reminiscent of the beloved 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews.
The Sound Of Music first opened on Broadway with an American cast in 1959, but generations of children and adults best remember the film version, with British actress Andrews and seven perky children singing Rodgers & Hammerstein songs such as Do-Re-Mi, My Favourite Things and So Long, Farewell.
This was the performance that made immortal the story of Maria, a singing governess who endears herself to seven children and marries their father, Captain von Trapp, as Nazis took over their native Austria.
The stage version of the musical plays in Singapore from July 11 to Aug 10 and is presented by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Base Entertainment. The musical is currently running in Johannesburg, in Luitingh's native South Africa, and will later travel to New Zealand.
In each city, the director seeks local actors to play the six younger von Trapps, aged four to 14 - no sweet young things of 16 going on 17 need apply. He needs children to play Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretl. In total, 18 children, three sets of six, are needed to ensure the month-long schedule of evening and matinee performances does not overtire any one young actor.
Luitingh, who held auditions here from last Friday to Sunday, says: "They've got to be able to sing, they've got to be able to dance and then throw in the fact that they have to be a certain height."
Height is important because of a memorable scene at the start where the children march into a room in order of height and introduce themselves to Maria. The tallest, a boy actor playing the second-oldest child Friedrich, cannot be more than 1.52m tall, while the shortest, a girl playing Gretl, the baby of the family, should be around 1.2m.