SHORT HILLS, NJ - The Paper Mill Playhouse embarked upon its 75th year in fine fashion, hosting its largest fundraising event of the year, The 75th Anniversary Gala, on Friday at the Hilton Short Hills.
The festive evening began with a reception and silent auction where guests had the opportunity to mingle, enjoy hors d'oeuvres and bid on a wide array of donated prizes.
“We couldn’t be more excited to host this sold out crowd to kick off our 75th year,” Todd Schmidt, the Paper Mill Playhouse’s Managing Director said. He noted that the year’s lineup of shows would consist of five musicals. “That is something we have not done in years. For our anniversary, it’s an homage to the tradition of what the Paper Mill is best known for,” he said.
Revelers were then invited into the ballroom, where The Eddie Bruce Band was already in full swing. The jam-packed evening included dinner, dancing, special performances and awards. It was clear that the Paper Mill Playhouse is a beloved institution with an influence that spreads far beyond the borders of Millburn and even New Jersey.
Michael Gepner, Director of Marketing for the Paper Mill, said the gala, “was a great way to commemorate our 75th year. Most professional theaters in this country don’t last nearly that long.” He said the Paper Mill is “the premier musical theater in the country.”
Governor Brendan Byrne was on hand to celebrate, and said, “I have been going to the Paper Mill Playhouse for 50 years, at least. I just love it.”
Theater fan Milt Meritt of Roseland had similar feelings, saying, “I thoroughly enjoy the performances at the Paper Mill. It is always a great theater experience.”
Kim Kaminski, the Branch Manager of Investor’s Bank in Millburn, said, “Investor’s has been a sponsor of Paper Mill for many years. They are a major benefit to the community and we are very proud of our association with them.”
Students from Paper Mill Playhouse’s Theatre School, Summer Musical Theater Conservatory and Broadway Show Choir performed for the crowd, reminding all in attendance of the amazing work done in the education and outreach programs of the Playhouse, including The Paper Mill Theatre School, The Adopt-a-School Project, The Rising Star Awards, Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory, August Musical Theatre Intensive, Guest Artist Master Classes and Professional Development Seminars.
Jeremy Jordan, star of the NBC musical drama “Smash,” also performed. He was nominated for a Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical for his lead performance as Jack Kelly in Disney’s hit musical “Newsies,” which had its world premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011 before moving on to Broadway.
There were two special honors presented by the Playhouse:
The Byrne/Kean Arts Advocate Award was presented to Kevin Cummings, the President and CEO of Investors Bank. This award recognizes his “passionate work on behalf of New Jersey’s arts community.”
The Antoinette Scudder Patron of the Arts Award was given to Carolyn Ferolito, Philanthropist and Paper Mill Playhouse Trustee. This award is named after the Paper Mill Playhouse co-founder who purchased the old Diamond Paper Mill and transformed it into the Paper Mill Playhouse.
All proceeds raised at the gala will be helping to fund the Paper Mill’s productions, professional training programs, arts education and outreach. Sponsors of the Gala included the Hilton Short Hills, Hamilton Jewelers, American Airlines and Neiman Marcus. As a not-for-profit arts organization, they rely on the generous contributions of corporations, foundations, and individuals. Learn more at www.papermill.org.