Two Rising Stars from Clifton to Perform at Paper Mill Playhouse


Two Clifton students, Zavier Aviles and Natalia Vella, have been chosen to participate in Paper Mill Playhouse’s Summer Musical Conservatory and will perform in a Broadway musical revue this weekend, on July 28 and 29.

From their press release: “The most talented students in the region and beyond have earned coveted spots in Paper Mill Playhouse’s Summer Musical Theater Conservatory and will present a fully produced concert, We Will Rock You.

Members of the competitive Conservatory who earned coveted spots in the Senior (ages 15-18), Junior Plus (ages 13-14), and Junior (ages 10-12) companies are directed and choreographed by Paper Mill Playhouse’s professional artistic staff in a fully produced, original concert titled We Will Rock You, a celebration of the sounds that revolutionized the Broadway musical. A show unlike any other produced by Paper Mill Playhouse, this special concert features 122 talented young performers, including Rising Star Award winners and nominees.

The 2023 New Voices Concert showcases the rock musicals that changed the landscape of the Broadway industry and became instant classics in the process, drawing on songs from Hair, Godspell, Rock of Ages, Dear Evan Hansen, Rent, Hamilton, and many more famous jukebox musical hits.”

Zavier Aviles, who completed his eighth-grade year at the Classical Academy Charter School of Clifton, will be attending a preparatory high school this fall. Living in Clifton with his mom and brother, Zavier started acting at the age of seven and cites Jensyn Oertl-Modero and Billie Eilish as role models. Jensyn is a Director of the Junior and Junior Plus Company at Paper Mill Playhouse Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory and “is always very positive, helpful, supportive, and compassionate. I strive to be like her,” Zavier said. “Billie Eilish is a big role model for me because she is very open about her feelings and I like that about her.”

Zavier, who takes dance classes and private voice lessons, has been part of the Musical Theatre Company and Dance Company at Class Act Performing Arts Studio in South Orange since 2018 and has performed in many productions, including Matilda, Pajama Game, and Descendants. He was introduced to Paper Mill Playhouse by a friend and joined their summer conservatory last summer. “From my experience at the Conservatory, the faculty and program are there to help you grow and experience an exceptional production on stage. Being able to participate in a professional production like this has been an honor these past two years,” he said. For his audition for We Will Rock You, Zavier performed “No One Has Ever Loved Me” from the musical Passion and also prepared “Grow For Me” from Little Shop of Horrors.

Interested in a wide variety of activities including baseball, dancing, medical sciences, and math, Zavier’s future plans are to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre and to one day be an actor on Broadway.

Ten-year-old Natalia Vella lives in Clifton with her mom, dad, little sister, and their puppy. She is a rising sixth-grader at a private school in Union City, near her mother’s work.

Natalia said that she’s been singing since she was just two years old and has a special love for Disney songs, particularly “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid. A natural vocalist, she started private voice lessons just one month before her big audition with Paper Mill, following a karaoke performance on a family cruise and the tremendous response from other cruise-goers. “I don't really have any theatre role models,” Natalia said, “I really just want to be the first me!” Her real heroes, she said, include scientist Marie Curie and her mom.

Natalia’s school doesn’t have a drama program and prior to her earning a spot in the showcase, she had only performed in school talent shows and sung for school masses. Unsurprisingly, Natalia is a big fan of musicals, with Phantom of the Opera being her all-time favorite. Other favorites include Wicked, The Lion King, and Paper Mill's Sister Act.

For her audition for the conservatory, Natalia had to perform a prepared song and learn a choreographed dance. Natalia chose “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray and was up against approximately 100 other children auditioning for her age group. “This was my first ever audition for anything and I was so happy and excited when I received the email telling me I was selected,” she said.

Natalia loves singing, dancing, fencing, chess, creative writing, and forensics. She dreams of one day attending Harvard University and becoming a doctor. “I'd also like to continue to pursue singing, acting, and music,” she added.

The Paper Mill Playhouse Summer Musical Theater Conservatory offers a unique opportunity for gifted and talented young performers to work at their own level and challenge themselves to achieve new goals and learn new skills. Key to the curriculum is the development of self-discipline, respect, and a commitment to excellence that will serve these young artists throughout their lives. The New Voices Concert is the culmination of the five-week program. “New Voices is an amazing opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow,” commented Mark S. Hoebee, Paper Mill’s Producing Artistic Director. “This fully produced, original concert features over a hundred and twenty incredible performers. It is amazing to see these young performers grow into professional artists and grace the stage with an inspiring, heartfelt performance, and it’s gratifying that Paper Mill’s professional casting partners attend annually to discover new talent.”

Performances of We Will Rock You will be held on Friday, July 28 at 7:30 PM and Saturday, July 29 at 1:30 PM and 7:30 PM at Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ. Tickets range in price from $25 to $50. Tickets may be purchased by calling (973) 376-4343, online at, or by visiting the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office.

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified