Rehearsing ‘The Sound Of Music’


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Middle schoolers must solve many problems. Sometimes, they are named Maria. But rarely do they have to climb every mountain or ford every stream. And they don’t have to take buses to get to work during hurricanes.

Unless they are Maya Fortgang. In September, the H.B. Whitehorne 6th grader was among more than 350 young people who tried out for roles in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of The Sound of Music. She won the role of Brigitta Von Trapp and so, for the last few weeks, instead of reporting to school, she has been commuting with her parents to a rehearsal studio in Manhattan.

There, she has to learn her part in “Do-Re-Mi” and the wedding scene (see the video below)–and do all the work that all of her HBW classmates are doing back home. Three hours of every rehearsal day is devoted to school work, with the help of the production’s tutor.

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“Three hours a day doing math is pretty tiring,” says Fortgang, who seems to have boundless energy when it comes to traipsing over and around the props at the New 42nd Street Studios. When the rehearsal is over and Fortgang heads back  out to Verona, she says she is asleep as soon as the bus leaves.

In addition to Fortgang, The Sound of Music cast includes children from Montclair, Maplewood, Chatham and Summit and veteran actors from the Paper Mill, Broadway and TV. Elena Shaddow, a Ho-Ho-Kus native who plays Maria, has appeared in the Paper Mill production of Carnival and on Broadway in La Cage aux Folles. Ben Davis, the show’s Captain Von Trapp, was in Les Miserables and Chelsea Morgan Stock, who plays Liesl, was on Broadway in The Little Mermaid. Edward Hibbert, who is Max Detweiler, was the recurring character Gil Chesterton on Frazier and Anthony Fedorov, who plays Rolf, was a finalist on American Idol.

Several days of rehearsals were lost Hurricane Sandy and the nor-easter, and the Fortgangs, who were one of the few Verona families with power, found themselves also housing another member of the cast. At a press event yesterday Director James Brennan praised his actors for quickly making up for lost time. “The cast made adjustments and absorbed things twice as fast as they should have,” said Brennan.

The Sound of Music runs from November 23 to December 30 at the Paper Mill Playhouse, which is located in Millburn. If you want to win two tickets to the show, you have until midnight tonight to enter, by clicking here.


The photos and video in this story were shot at the New 42nd Street Studios.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


  1. One bit of trivia…Anne Hathaway moved to Millburn when she was 6. She later went on to perform at the Paper Mill Playhouse…hey,you never know!


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