Arts & Entertainment

Two West Orange Teens Selected for Prestigious Musical Theater Conservatory

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Riley Hahn and Samantha Powell of West Orange selected to participate in Paper Mill Playhouse's prestigious Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory for 2018. Credits: Paper Mill Playhouse
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Riley Hahn of West Orange Credits: Paper Mill Playhouse
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Samantha Powell of West Orange Credits: Paper Mill Playhouse
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MILLBURN, NJ — Riley Hahn and Samantha Powell of West Orange were recently selected by Mark Hoebee, Paper Mill Playhouse producing artistic director and recipient of the 2016 Tony Award for Regional Theatre, to be a part of the Paper Mill’s prestigious Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory for 2018. 

This honor puts the two young women in the same company as prominent conservatory alumni such as Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway, Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, and many others who have gone on to appear on Broadway, in regional theater productions, in film and on television.

Members of the competitive conservatory, who earned coveted spots in the Senior (ages 15-18), Junior Plus (ages 13-14), and Junior companies (ages 10-12), are being directed and choreographed by Paper Mill Playhouse’s professional artistic staff in a fully produced, original concert entitled “New Voices of 2018: From Sea to Shining Sea!” The concert, to be performed later this month is a culmination of the five-week conservatory program.

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“From the first day of class all the way until the final curtain comes down at New Voices, we require our students to rise to the demands of this rigorous program,” said Lisa Cooney, Paper Mill Playhouse Director of Education. “We ask them to work harder than they ever have before as young performers.”

Cooney added that the faculty at Paper Mill Playhouse strives to build an incredible ensemble company, while each student also hones his or her own individual performance skills. Students are also encouraged to believe in themselves as professional artists.

“We find summer after summer that our students meet our expectations and more,” said Cooney. “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. We are thrilled when students make a name or themselves on Broadway or in Hollywood, but even if they don’t, the skills they learn and the discipline they develop will serve them in any field.”

The summer conservatory involves rigorous musical theater study that allows students to enhance their individual performance potential while developing a broad base of theater experience and knowledge. Students participate in intensive classes over a span of five weeks, including musical theater performance, acting, dance and improvisation, while also attending guest workshops led by professional actors, directors, and casting agents. 

According to the Paper Mill Playhouse, this program offers a unique opportunity for gifted young performers to work at their own level, challenge themselves to achieve new goals and learn new skills. A goal of the curriculum is for the participants to develop self-discipline, respect, and a commitment to excellence that will serve these young artists throughout their lives.  

The final weeks are devoted to rehearsals for the “New Voices” concert, performed annually by the conservatory’s trained students.

“'New Voices' is an amazing opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow,” said Hoebee. “This fully produced, original concert features over 100 incredible performers. It is amazing to see these young performers grow into professional artists and grace the stage with an inspiring, heartfelt performance.”

Also appearing in this performance are numerous winners and nominees of the 2018 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards, who won scholarships to attend the conservatory through the support of the Investors Foundation.

Performances of “New Voices of 2018: From Sea to Shining Sea” will be held on July 27 at 7:30 p.m. and July 28 at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium at Montclair State University, located at 1 Normal Avenue in Montclair.

Tickets range in price from $25 to $45, and can be purchased by calling (973) 376-4343, online at www.papermill.org, or by visiting the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn.

Conservatory alumni include:

Anne Hathaway - Twelfth Night, Film: Les Misérables  (2013 Academy Award Winner),  Rachel Getting Married (2009 Academy Award & Golden Globe nominee), Get Smart, Brokeback Mountain, The Devil Wears Prada, & Disney’s The Princess Diaries

Laura Benanti - Broadway: She Loves MeGypsy (2008 Tony Award winner), Into the Woods, The Wedding Singer, Swing!

Julia Knitel – Broadway: Beautiful: the Carole King Musical (u/s Carole King); Bye Bye Birdie

Robert McClure - Broadway: Something Rotten, Honeymoon in Vegas, Chaplin, Avenue Q

Shanice Williams- NBC’s The Wiz Live!

Joshua Dela Cruz - Broadway’s Disney’s Aladdin (Aladdin Understudy)

Ali Stroker – Broadway: Spring Awakening, Oxygen’s The Glee Project: Season 2; Paper Mill’s 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Olive Ostrovsky)

Nikki M. James - Broadway: Les Misérables, Book of Mormon (2011 Tony Award winner), All Shook Up

Avery Espiritu: BroadwayThe King and I

James Ignacio – BroadwayThe King and I

Alex Drier – BroadwayFinding Neverland, Assembled Parties

Daisy Hobbs – Broadway: Disney’s Aladdin

Matthew Scott - Broadway: Jersey Boys, A Catered Affair (Ralph), Sondheim on Sondheim

Collin Kelly-Sordelet – Broadway: The Last Ship (Young Gideon)

Jared Gertner - 2014 Olivier Award nominee West End, Broadway & National Tour of The Book Of Mormon (Elder Cunningham)

Veronica J. Kuehn – Broadway: Mamma Mia!, Xanadu; Off Broadway: Avenue Q

Neil McCaffrey – Broadway: Mary Poppins (Michael Banks), Bye, Bye Birdie (Randolph Macafee), Billy Elliot (Michael)

Monette McKay – Broadway: Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, Memphis, Mamma Mia!

Constantine Rousouli - Broadway: Hairspray (Link), Ghost the Musical, Wicked

Jonathan Schwartz - Broadway’s Disney’s Aladdin (Omar)

Elizabeth Egan Gillies - Nickelodeon’s Victorious; Broadway: 13! The Musical

Lael Van Keuran – Broadway: Sister Act

Matt Ban – Broadway: Rock of Ages (Dennis)

Connor Buckley - Star of Fox-TV’s Surviving Jack with Chris Meloni (role of “Jack Dunlevy”)

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