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Howard T. Herber Middle School holds its first musical

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Howard T. Herber Middle School in Malverne held its first musical from Jan. 11-12. Students performed, “The Wizard of Oz,” in front hundreds of people that comprised of family, friends and members of the school district.

“The thing that I always kept trying to get through to them is that they’re making history,” said David Coonan, the musical’s director and lighting designer. “They’re the first cast of the Howard T. Herber musical, and that’s something that you can never take away from them.”

When working with middle-school students, Coonan said, many of them had never taken part in any kind of production before. With that, he explained that there was a learning curve that they had to overcome.

“They embraced it and they loved it,” Coonan said. “They worked incredibly hard to make this production special, which they did.”

Michael Messina, the district’s chairman of music and fine arts — who was the producer for “The Wizard of Oz” — said the idea had been around for several years, and that the Board of Ed. provided the necessary funds to back this project.

“We couldn’t have done this without the support of our superintendent and our Board of Education,” Messina said. . “They played a huge role in making this musical come to life.”

Auditions for the musical began in October, and the first read through of the script was in November. Coonan said that because of the group’s tight timeline for preparing the musical, it had to be strategically rehearsed.

“I think overall that the timeframe was the biggest challenge,” Coonan said. “When it’s a two- to three-month window, and you’re dealing with kids that are eager, but aren’t trained yet, that’s when it starts to get tricky. A lot of it had to do with the faith that we had in the cast and crew.”

Each of the group’s performances was well received. Based on the success of their musical, the school hopes to build a tradition, similar to what Malverne High School has accomplished. Messina said that he hopes to increase the rigor of their performances.

“Our students are up to the challenge, and we know they that are capable of taking on more complex musicals,” Messina said.