Thirty New Albany Middle School students in The Music Man Jr. have faced numerous challenges leading up to their Feb. 27, 28 and March 1 performances.

Thirty New Albany Middle School students in The Music Man Jr. have faced numerous challenges leading up to their Feb. 27, 28 and March 1 performances.

Erin Smith, the show's co-director, said the students have been practicing since January, learning lines, songs and dances, even though many of their practices were canceled because of bad weather.

In addition, she said, The Music Man Jr. will be the first musical that's been performed in the middle school cafeteria in some years, so organizers were unsure if they could make the audio work.

Next, Smith said, she had not thought about hiring a choreographer, but parent Melissa Gould stepped up to help.

Finally, students had no place to build a set, so parents opened up their homes for set building and brought pieces to school as they were built, she said.

"We've been collaborating with the high school drama department and a lot of parents to help build sets," Smith said. "They're helping us overcome those kinds of challenges."

Despite the challenges, Smith said, the middle school students are learning a lot from the production.

"They're learning teamwork," Smith said. "If they are not at a rehearsal, it affects the rest of the team. If their lines are not happening because someone's not there, (practice) doesn't run as smoothly."

She said learning a musical is hard work, requiring long rehearsals, but the students don't seem to mind.

"They love being there, and it's really refreshing for me as a teacher to have a group of kids who want to be there," she said.

Auditions were held in December, with 50 children attending. Smith said organizers held a meeting so parents would know they had to make cuts.

That was the most difficult part of the process, Smith said.

"We only had 30 spots in the show, and (more than) 50 auditioned. It was really hard to make cuts but we did have to," she said. "A lot of students (not in the cast) are participating as ushers and ticket sellers, and a couple are moving scenery backstage."

Smith said the students have a wide range of experience levels.

"Some of our cast members have been in numerous productions, and for some of them, this is their first show," Smith said. "Brooke (Shackelford) and I are co-directing the show, and one of our goals was to include some students who've never done plays before. Another of our goals was to try to help kids fit in somewhere because musical theater is its own niche."

Smith said the students involved would be particularly proud when the show begins.

"They're going to be extremely proud of the efforts they've put in," she said. "It's something to be proud of, something that's bigger than themselves."

The Music Man Jr. is based on the popular Broadway musical about con man Harold Hill, who sells instruments to the people of River City, Iowa, and promises to help organize a band even though he has no musical experience.

Performances will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, and Friday, Feb. 28, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 1, in the middle school cafeteria. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the door or during middle school lunch periods.