Paper Mill Playhouse 'New Voices' Performance, A Night to Remember for Montclair Students

Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett

MONTCLAIR, NJ - "Oh, what a night..." sang the performers on the Paper Mill Playhouse stage Saturday night.  120 talented youngsters performed their finale performance in a show entitled “New Voices of 2014: Oh What a Night!”  Seven students out of the 120 selected were from Montclair.

The Friday and Saturday night performances represented the culminating activity for the Paper Mill Playhouse’s summer musical theater conservatory.   Student performers of ages 10-18 attended a five-week program and the performance was the culminating activity to showcase their talent.

Student performers included those who were winners and nominees of the 2014 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards whereas, some of those recipients won scholarships to attend the conservatory.  Performances were held on Friday and Saturday, one performance on Friday and two performances on Saturday.

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Producing Artistic Director, Mark S. Hoebee and  Managing Director, Todd Schmidt, designed the 2014 New Voices as a tribute to the magical shows and unforgettable moments from various American musicals.

“New Voices is an amazing opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow,” stated Mark S. Hoebee, Paper Mill’s Producing Artistic Director.  “This fully produced, original concert features 120 incredible performers.  It is amazing to see these young performers grow into professional artists and grace our stage with an inspiring, heartfelt performance.”

The Paper Mill Playhouse Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory is a program of rigorous study that encourages students to enhance their individual performance potential while developing a broad base of theater experience and knowledge.  Students participate in intensive classes including musical theater performance, acting, dance, and improvisation, while also attending guest workshops led by professional actors, directors, and casting agents.  The final weeks are specifically for students to rehearse for the New Voices Concert which is performed annually on the Paper Mill Playhouse stage.

"I was in Oliver here and that's how I knew about the audition.  We have been practicing for five weeks," says Bobby Axlerod who is a 6th grader from Montclair.  Axlerod was a junior in the cast and played roles in many of the scenes.   "I feel like the show went very well and I am proud of it."

“From the first day of class all the way through opening night of New Voices, we require our students to rise to the demands of this rigorous program,” stated Lisa Cooney Paper Mill Playhouse Director of Education.  “We ask them to work harder than they ever have before as young performers, and we strive to build an incredible ensemble company, while each student hones their own individual performance skills.  Our faculty pushes the students to believe in themselves as professional artists and treats them as such.  We find summer after summer that our students meet our expectations and more.  When they move on to college or the professional world, they are ready for the challenges they’ll face, and time and again they thrive and ultimately live their dream of being a professional performer.  It’s gratifying when they make a name or themselves on Broadway or in Hollywood, but even if they do not, the skills they learn and the work ethic they develop will serve them in any field.”

Students from Paper Mill Playhouse’s Conservatory have gone on to appear in numerous Broadway productions, film, television, and regional theater. Laura Benanti, a 2008 Tony Award winner for Gypsy, Broadway roles include Into the Woods, The Wedding Singer, Swing and Anne Hathaway of Twelfth Night, Film: “Les Miserables (2013 Academy Award winner) “Rachel Getting Married” (2009 Academy Award & Golden Globe nominee), “Get Smart”, “Brokeback Mountain”, “The Devil Wears Prada”, and Disney’s “The Princess Diaries” are among the most notable conservatory students.

Many audience members expressed that the performance was enjoyable for the entire family.  "Can't wait to come back next year with the rest of my family," says Steven Kaplan from Marlboro Township.  Kaplan came to the show with his wife and daughter who is an elementary music teacher.  He added, "It was the single most beautiful musical review I have ever seen, bar none.  We saw the advertisement on the internet and my daughter is a music teacher so we thought she would love this. It was a beautiful performance for any age."

Seven of the students from Montclair this summer are listed below: 

Bobby Axelrod

Maiya Blainey

Eve Dillingham

Ella Fine

Rory Furey-King

Daisy Garrison

Amanda Harris

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