She's off to see the Wizard ... and Winnipegger Colleen Furlan has her sights set on collecting the prize that waits at the end of the Yellow Brick Road.
"It would make my whole life," said the 19-year-old musical-theatre performer, who today will be named as one of the Top 10 finalists in the CBC reality/competition series Over the Rainbow. "An opportunity like this doesn't come along very often, especially for a young performer who's just trying to break into the business. Basically, being on a show like this, and winning it, would make your whole career. I would be so grateful, because I really can't see myself doing anything else other than performing."
Over the Rainbow, which premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBC, is an eight-part talent competition series in which weekly performances and viewer voting will narrow the field until the final remaining contestant wins the starring role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's upcoming Toronto production of The Wizard of Oz.
After taking part in the Winnipeg tryouts during the show's cross-country audition tour last spring, Furlan was one of six locals chosen to take part in the Top-100 tryouts in Toronto; when the field was reduced to the Top 20, she was the lone remaining Winnipegger.
Furlan, a Charleswood product who last spring completed her first year of studies in the University of Manitoba's faculty of music, has spent the past three weeks taking part in an intensive "Dorothy Farm" that included vocal and dance training, wardrobe and makeup sessions, and performance-based competitions that included an audition in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber himself.
"This has been the best experience of my life," she said. "To be able, at 19 years old, to have something this big happen is absolutely incredible. It's always been a dream of mine to make it onstage, and now that I have this opportunity, the adrenalin is pumping through my veins nonstop. I feel like it's finally happening."
Furlan's TV-series trip down the Yellow Brick Road is just another leg in what has been a lifelong journey toward a showbiz career. A dancer since age four and a singer since age six, she has been a fixture in local Highland Dance competitions and the Winnipeg Music Festival for most of the past decade.
Over the Rainbow represents a shift in her competitive career, however, in that it will be viewer votes that decide how far she goes toward being fitted with Dorothy's coveted ruby slippers. And to that end, Furlan and her family are doing everything she can to drum up local support -- sending out cards and flyers, setting up a Facebook fan page (www.Facebook.com/ColleenMcGregorFurlan) and encouraging local supporters to follow her on Twitter (@colleenosaurus3).
"Winnipeg is such a supportive community, and I really do hope they get behind me," she said. "I really want to make a good impression for our city, and to do that, I need their support. It's not a huge place like Toronto or Vancouver, where many of the competitors are from, so I hope people at home will watch the show and vote for me."