Winnipeg has produced many talented people over the years. One of our latest is Colleen Furlan. She’s been one of the regular stars of CBC’s latest talent competition, Over the Rainbow, that has been airing on CBC Television every Sunday evening.
A local girl from Charleswood, Colleen is a second year music student at the University of Manitoba. She opted to take a one-year sabbatical to pursue her dream of starring as Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage show of the Wizard of Oz.
The dream began in earnest earlier this year when she was chosen as one of a hundred talented young women who would compete for the coveted role as Dorothy. After initial auditions, twenty girls were chosen to attend CBC’s “Dorothy Farm” in rural Ontario.
After a week of grueling rehearsals at the farm, they were informed that their next audition would be at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s estate in Barbados. Of the twenty girls who made the trek, ten were informed that they would progress onto the next stage — starring in a weekly variety/reality TV show.
Each week, the ten Dorothy hopefuls would perform. Then came the voting and the “sing-off” in front of a panel of judges where one girl would be eliminated every week until only one remained. From one episode to the next, these exceptionally talented young women would sing and dance, as well as offer insights into their personalities through interviews about their background, training and accomplishments.
As the only girl from Manitoba, Colleen had the support of many Winnipeggers, mostly due to an intense publicity campaign by her mother Gaelyn McGregor that encouraged people to watch and to vote for her daughter.
The Ruby Red Army went to work: T-shirts were printed and posters popped up all over town. Sam Katz phoned into the show and Nia Vardalos also offered her support. There was a rally for Colleen at the U of M’s University College; she couldn’t be there as she was busy with the CBC in Toronto but she was represented by a life-size cardboard cut-out of her in her symbolic red Dorothy dress. The same image appeared on electronic billboards at Portage and Main, as well as at the Jumbotron at Bomber games.
Colleen is no stranger to the performing arts. She uses fellow soprano Tracy Dahl as her voice coach. At only nineteen years of age, Colleen has been a regular performer at annual Winnipeg and Manitoba Music Festivals, where she’s competed in musical theatre, classics and opera, sweeping numerous awards.
Then there’s the dancing: Scottish Highland dancing of which Colleen is a world class competitor, as well as hip-hop, jazz, lyrical and ballet. Her trophy case is huge. Mind you, she probably has the best teacher in that her mother is the principal teacher at the McGregor Studio of Highland Dance.
Every summer for nearly fifteen years now, Colleen and her mother have spent their summers in Scotland competing very successfully in various Highland Games including, the World Highland Dance Championships in Cowal, Dunoon. Colleen was even invited to compete at the Royal Braemar Highland Gathering for her Majesty the Queen near Balmoral.
Balmoral of course is the Scottish village where the Queen also spends her summers and Colleen has met Her Majesty on a couple of occasions. She once presented the Queen with a bunch of flowers in Scotland and more recently met her here in Winnipeg when she danced a solo performance for Her Majesty at the Forks.
Colleen may not have been ultimately successful in her quest to be chosen as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Dorothy, but out of the hundreds who applied she was one of the final four and that’s quite an amazing feat. She also entertained us television viewers every week along the way.
She may not be “Dorothy” in this role, but she’s Colleen Furlan and you should remember that name because you’re probably going to be hearing a lot more from her in the future.