WEST CALDWELL, NJ — During the final week of July, James Caldwell High School rising senior Mollie DeFilippo starred in the Paper Mill Playhouse performance “New Voices of 2016: Everything Old is New Again!” as the finale to the prestigious summer musical theater conservatory she was entered into earlier this year. 

DeFilippo was nominated for the 2016 “Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award” for her performance in James Caldwell High School’s spring musical “Seussical the Musical.” Although she did not win the category, she was automatically entered into the performing arts center’s summer musical theater conservatory by being nominated. 

The competitive group of young performers selected for the summer musical theater conservatory is comprised of 120 students from around New Jersey. Over a span of five weeks, the students attend classes and workshops, and put together an originally directed and choreographed performance—this year’s being “New Voices of 2016: Everything Old is New Again!”

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James Caldwell High School Vice-Principal John Bertollo attended the Saturday matinee showing, which was one of three performances DeFilippo was featured in through the weekend.

“Being fortunate enough to have a student get nominated for a Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award alone was an amazing feeling for JCHS,” said Bertollo, who was also in the crowd for the awards ceremony. “Although Mollie didn't win her category, it was still a surreal feeling to see her perform on such a big stage. To go back a second time and see her perform with 120 of the most talented students in New Jersey was something I had never experienced before other than at a Broadway show.” 

Bertollo said it is amazing how much talent the state of New Jersey has and that it gives him “such pride for the school” to know one of its students is in the conversation.

“Mollie is a great kid and can really go places if she continues to work hard,” he said. “She got to see the level of competition first hand and I think it'll push her to work even harder.”