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Elicia MacKenzie, star of The Sound of Music.
Elicia MacKenzie, star of The Sound of Music.

Leadership: Elicia MacKenzie

When the dog bites, simply persevere Add to ...

The actor's business is a challenging one. It takes personal initiative to find opportunity, determination in the face of overwhelming competition, resilience to weather tough times, perseverance to keep going, and above all, a passion for what you do. When you get a lucky break, you have to deliver. It's not unlike the role of an entrepreneur, only the product you sell is your talent.

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"Rejection is the nature of the beast," says Elicia MacKenzie, who plays Maria in Andrew Lloyd Webber's production of The Sound of Music in Toronto. "You need to have a strong sense of self, knowing who you are as a person and playing to your strengths. And not worry too much about what people think."

A recent graduate in performing arts from Capilano College in Vancouver, the 24 year-old Moncton-born Ms. MacKenzie got the role last year by winning the CBC reality series, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? , which pitted her against thousands of other girls who auditioned from across Canada. The contestants were whittled down from more than 2,000 to 200 to 20 to 10 who competed on television for a panel of judges, including Mr. Webber, and the votes of Canadians who had the final say in picking the winner.

Ms. MacKenzie attributes her success in the competition to her positive attitude and the joy she brings to her craft. She says the biggest challenge of the role she now performs six times a week in the multi-million dollar production is "the endurance of it all."

That means "not going out partying every night" and "taking care of your voice." She avoids greasy or acidic foods such as tomatoes that might give her heartburn before singing, sticking to alkaline foods instead such as spinach. She also brings her own throat-soothing brew of honey-ginger tea to the theatre and keeps it at hand. What's essential to her before a show is quiet so she can calm and centre herself.

Ms. MacKenzie, who won the 2009 Dora Award this June for best female performance in a musical, dreams of performing on Broadway and in London's West End, making films and possibly a CD in the future. "Right now, everything revolves around Maria," she says. "I just take things as they come and try not to worry about the little things."

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