After months of rehearsal, students at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Mundelein this weekend will perform "Beauty and the Beast," the first musical in the school's history.

The cast's singing and dancing skills have been honed by an estimated 175 hours of after-school and weekend rehearsal sessions. Director Moulee Gupta said she has noticed the young actors starting to "become the characters" of the classic Disney fairy tale.

The performance is billed as "Beauty and the Beast, Jr.", a shortened version for young artists. Gupta said students are "excited nervous" and looking forward to performing for family and friends.

"There are many moments in the show where you forget that you're watching middle school students perform because they've done such an outstanding job," said Gupta, band director for the Mundelein Elementary District 75 school the past five years.

This first-time musical will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, and 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Lincoln Early Learning Center, 200 W. Maple Ave., Mundelein. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the school, 855 W. Hawley St. They also will be available at the door before the shows.

"I chose 'Beauty and the Beast' because it's a great story that teaches an important life lesson," Gupta said. "Knowing the talent at our school, I knew we would have the right students to fill the roles for the production."

There have been talent shows in recent years at Sandburg, which opened in 1959, but no musicals. Auditions were held in October, and all sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who applied were cast in the show -- 50 on stage and 25 backstage as the crew.

"There's a lot of buzz," said Sandburg Principal Mark Pilut. "The response has been great. It's not just parents buying tickets."

Most of the production's costumes are on loan from Lake Park High School in Roselle. Some lead costumes are rented from a company in New Hampshire, and the rest were sewn by Gupta, stage manager Carol Holck and parent volunteers.

Janet McMahan, a special-education teacher and District 75 public relations coordinator, said an intricate set complete with props has been created to transform the stage at Lincoln for the event.