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There’s no place like home for talented performer

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There’s been no shortage of musical talent coming from River Heights, from Flamenco guitarists to Neil Young and now our latest prodigy — Colleen Furlan. Colleen was one of the stars of CBC’s recent talent competition, Over the Rainbow.


Even though Colleen has since moved "out west" to Charleswood with her parents, she grew up on Lindsay Street.


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 Weber’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 of Dorothy. Following the initial auditions, 20 girls were chosen to attend CBC’s Dorothy’s 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 Weber’s estate in Barbados. Twenty girls made the trip and 10 of them were subsequently informed they would progress onto the next stage, a weekly television variety/reality type show in which the 10 Dorothy hopefuls would perform each week. 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.


Each week 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, Winnipeg seemed to rally around Colleen, mostly due to an intense publicity campaign by her mother, Gaelyn McGregor, to encourage Winnipeggers to watch and vote.


The ruby red army went to work, T-shirts were printed and posters popped up all over town. Mayor Sam Katz phoned into the show and Nia Vardalos 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 in Toronto, but she was represented by a lifesize cardboard cut-out of her in her symbolic red Dorothy dress.


Colleen is no stranger to the performing arts. She has fellow soprano Tracy Dahl as her vocal coach and at only 19 has been a regular performer at the annual Winnipeg and Manitoba music festivals where she’s competed in musical theatre, the classics and opera.  


In addition, she is a world-class Scottish highland dancer and enjoys hip-hop, jazz and ballet dancing. I’ve seen her trophy case, it’s huge. Mind you, she has a great dance teacher. Her mother is the principal teacher at the McGregor Studio of Highland Dance. Every summer for nearly 15 years Colleen and her mother have spent their summers in Scotland competing very successfully in various competitions.


Colleen may not have been ultimately successful in her quest to become Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Dorothy, but she did finish among the final four which is quite an amazing feat. And she also entertained us television viewers every week along the way.


Trevor Smith is a community correspondent for River Heights. You can contact him via email at smitht@mymts.net.

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