When David Longest interviewed for the vacant theater director’s position at New Albany High School, he was asked a simple question.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Longest said. “Dennis Renshaw asked me if I could do the big shows, and I told him I could.”

That was 23 years ago. And so far, Longest has lived up to his word.

In November, Longest will put on another large production. This is one that will garner national attention and be the first of its kind in the area. The show will be performed on consecutive weekends — Nov. 12-14 and Nov. 19-21.

New Albany High School was picked to perform Disney’s “High School Musical,” which has just been adopted for the stage. There were 15,000 schools in the country that wanted to perform the show this year. Seven were picked.

The musical is based on Disney’s original movie which was released in January and has already been televised 13 times on the Disney Channel. To date, it has earned $100 million through sales of DVDs, CDs and other production royalties.

“I hope this will be one of those shows that really connects with kids. It’s about them ... about the issues they face,” Longest said. “But it’s still very entertaining.”

The other six schools selected to perform the musical are: Green Valley High School (Henderson, Nev.), James H. Blake High School (Silver Springs, Md.), Woodhills High School (The Woodlands, Texas), Steven F. Austin High School (Austin, Texas), Woodhills High School (Pittsburgh) and Upper Darby High School (Fort Washington, Pa.).

“It’s really an honor to be selected to do this musical,” Longest said.

National exposure helped New Albany earn the right to be one of the first schools to perform the musical. John Prignano — of Music Theater International, which is the licensing agent for Disney shows — saw New Albany perform “Crazy For Your” at an international competition in Nebraska a few years ago.

He also read an article about New Albany’s theater success and community support in the New York Times two years ago.

“He knows about our program. It’s a big-cast show and they want bigger schools to do it,” Longest said. “We’ll be doing something brand new, so it will be a challenge.”

New Albany was scheduled to perform “Peter Pan” this fall, but will now perform that classic next fall. Longest said Jeffersonville High School is performing “Peter Pan” in October and it wouldn’t have made sense for two schools in the area to perform the same musical.

‘“Peter Pan’ will always be out there,” Longest said. “Since Jeff is doing it this fall, we were looking for a show. This was really a gift from heaven.”

An exclusive gift.

Thomas Schumacher, with Disney Theatrical Productions, said by the end of 2007 more than 2,000 schools will produce “High School Musical.”

New Albany can say it was one of the first seven.

“People have been after me for years to do ‘Grease.’ That’s a great show, but it doesn’t really get the right high school message across,” Longest said. “This show is as wholesome as can be. It’s very fun and upbeat.”

Longest said it will take a cast of 60 students to put on the Disney musical. Open tryouts for the show are Monday and Tuesday. The NAHS theater director hopes to have a large turnout.

“Our tryouts are always open to all of our students.” he said. “I want to be even more open with this show. It would be hypocritical to just cast theater kids with a show which gets across a message of accepting. We are always looking for new blood.”

Longest said the show’s budget will be around $60,000. The money is raised through advertising and ticket sales. Tickets will be $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and students.

• Longest was a guest presenter this summer at the annual Broadway Classroom which was held at Ford Victory Theater. His presentation — to several hundred high school theater directors from all over the country —centered around how to rally community support for shows.

“It was a great experience,” Longest said about being a guest speaker at the event. “There are no secrets in the arts world. We all share successes and ideas.

“I am nothing special. I just surround myself with talented people and then try to motivate them. Everyone works so hard on our shows. My greatest asset is I don’t give up. I have a passion for this.”

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