June 05, 2021
AHA Thespian Recognized for Starring Role in ‘Sister Act’
Valeria Gonzalez, star of the Academy of the Holy Angels’ virtual production of “Sister Act,” earned an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards. The AHA senior was recognized in the Outstanding Solo Performance by an Actress category.
“Valeria rose to the occasion as the lead of a completely virtual musical,” said Director/Music & Theater Department Chair Katie Collins. “She performed her own quick changes and recorded all of her songs in her self-created home studio. She was the perfect Deloris, and I am extremely proud of her Rising Star recognition.”
Although AHA’s spring musical was virtual this year, Gonzalez demonstrated her considerable vocal and acting talent. She was a charming, funny, likeable Deloris Van Cartier, who entertained without the benefit of the energy of a live audience or in-person interaction with other performers. Gonzalez stepped into the role Whoopi Goldberg made famous on the silver screen in 1992. This “fish out of water” story features a lounge singer who witnesses a murder and is moved to a convent for her protection. Deloris updates the convent choir’s repertoire, and turns the group into a musical sensation.
“Working on ‘Sister Act’ was definitely a challenge,” Gonzalez said when asked about contributing to the virtual show.
“I have never been a part of a Zoom production before. I did not know what to expect. It was extremely difficult to record myself without having the rest of the cast there with me.”
She acknowledged that maintaining her energy level was difficult without being able to see the other cast members.
Gonzalez has come a long way since the second grade, when she appeared in “Alice in Wonderland, Junior.” This first role opened a whole new world for Gonzalez.
“I fell in love with the freedom of pretending to be someone else on a stage,” she recalled. “I enjoy being on stage because I love the connection that a performer has with the audience. I immediately fell in love with the energy that is being reciprocated from the performer to the audience when being on stage. I love the nerve-wracking feeling before being on a stage and the adrenaline after a performance is over. Most importantly, I love the ability I have to express myself when I am on the stage.”
During her four years at AHA, Gonzalez has been cast in eight productions, including “And Then There Were None,” “Catch Me if You Can,” “Peter and the StarCatcher,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Twelve Angry Jurors,” “Disaster,” “The Shadow,” and “Sister Act.” “Disaster,” which would have been performed in March 2020, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Shadow” was one of several radio dramas that was presented online with audio only.
This fall, Gonzalez will be heading to New York University, where she will study recorded music at the Clive Davis Institute.
Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.