By Charlotte Prong Parkhill
Kitchener Post staff
After singing and dancing and facing the whims of judges and viewers for seven weeks, Kitchener’s AJ Bridel is in the finals on CBC’s Over the Rainbow.
The winner of the competition will play Dorothy in the new Mirvish production of The Wizard of Oz, a huge career coup for any up-and-coming musical theatre actor.
Bridel, who played the role of Dorothy on stage at Eastwood Collegiate last year, has been a consistent favourite among both judges and viewers.
On Monday’s show she found herself in the bottom two, as voted on by viewers, for the first time. But after a sing-off with competitor Colleen Furlan, Bridel was saved from elimination by judge Arlene Phillips.
Her vocal coach, Amanda Kind, said the sing-off, which was a ballad, was actually a good experience for Bridel.
“She looked at it as an opportunity to show a different side of herself,” Kind said.
Bridel has faced criticism that she’s a bit too showy and may not have the softer side required to play Dorothy. But those comments may be inevitable, given the highly choreographed numbers she’s been given by producers. Last week, she sang All That Jazz while performing a full dance routine.
“She never complains. That’s not her personality,” Kind said.
“She keeps hoping for something a little softer, but at the same time, when she got All That Jazz she screamed because she loves it so much.”
This week, the young women are somewhat sequestered as they prepare for their final show. But Bridel is scheduled to appear at Eastwood today for a CBC taping.
It’s an exhausting schedule that sometimes sees them rehearsing, doing taped pieces and performing from the time they get up at 5:30 a.m. until they return to the “Dorothy mansion” at 10 p.m.
Final performances will air on Over the Rainbow Nov. 4. Bridel faces Danielle Wade, an early favourite who has never faced an elimination, and Stephanie LaRochelle, who has come back from the bottom two a few times and is becoming
known as the “dark horse” of the competition.
After the show, it’s up to viewers to vote. There is no elimination sing-off, no final saving by the judges. The final results show airs Nov. 5.
What if she doesn’t win?
“AJ knows she still has a lot to learn, so if she doesn’t win, I’m sure she’ll go back to school,” Kind said.