The History of the Waa-Mu Show

A Toast to the Past...

For many performers, musicians, and directors, tackling an already-premiered musical theatre production offers enough challenges. However, students at Northwestern University celebrate a tradition of creating their own script and music for the stage.

This tradition started in 1912 when the Women’s Athletic Association (W.A.A) staged its first all-female musical theatre production to sold-out audiences. Across campus, the Men’s Union (M.U.) performed all-male operettas less successfully. In 1929, as the Men’s Union’s productions continuously lost money, its members, led by seniors Joseph W. Miller and Darrell Ware, pitched the formation of a co-ed student musical theatre performance to the Women’s Athletic Association. After some coaxing- especially after the realization that the women would have to share the stage with the men- the W.A.A. and M.U. wrote and performed an original musical revue, Good Morning Glory, to ecstatic audiences of Northwestern students, staff, and the surrounding community.

The Waa-Mu team continued their tradition of student-written variety musical theatre revues. Led by the student, and after 1931, professional staff directors and board members, the students of the Waa-Mu Show collaborated to create brief skits with dialogue and song. Generally, the scenes were not connected by a single plot now used in recent Waa-Mu productions. Directors and board members held the right to override student-written material; in 1935, they turned down the students’ original script to instead stage Ray Henderson’s Good News. The board exercised their power again in 1938 and 1993 with George Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing and Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town, respectively.

Despite a hiatus during World War II from 1943-1945 during which the profits from previous productions were invested in war bonds, the Waa-Mu Show continued through the 20th century with its musical revue-style scripts. Since the building’s construction in 1941, the production performed in Scott Hall’s Cahn Auditorium.

However, in the 2013 production entitled Flying Home, the Waa-Mu Show transitioned from a musical revue to a full-length, original musical. Over the past seven years, students and Northwestern staff members collaborate in “Creating the Musical” and “Orchestrating the Musical” classes, led by professors, Head Writers and Team Music, to write and compose original script, orchestrations, and lyrics over the school year.

Notable Alumni

· 1937- Walter Kerr: Broadway theatre critic for New York Times from 1966 to 1983.

· 1949- Claude Akins: stage, screen, and television character actor, known for his portrayal of Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo in the television series “B.J. and the Bear”.

· 1949- Sheldon Harnick: Lyricist of the of Fiddler on the Roof (winner of the Tony Award for Best Composer and Lyricist) , She Loves Me, and Fiorello!, among others.

· 1954- George Furth: Broadway actor, librettist, and playwright known for his book and music partnerships with Stephen Sondheim on the musicals Company and Merrily We Roll Along.

· 1955- Warren Beatty: Film actor, director, and producer nominated for fourteen Academy Awards.

· 1956- Garry Marshall: Television and film writer and director famed for producing 1970s sitcoms Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley and directing popular films such as Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries.

· enrolled 1959- Ann-Margret: Singer and actress known for her numerous film and television roles, especially in Bye Bye Birdie and Carnal Knowledge.

· 1960- Larry Grossman: Composer for musical theatre, pop, television, film, and concert including the musical A Christmas Memory and Michael Jackson’s “Gone Too Soon”.

· 1961- Karen Black: Theatre and film actress known for her roles in The Great Gatsby, Invaders from Mars, and Family Pilot.

· 1962- Penny Fuller: Stage, film, and television actress nominated for six Emmy Awards and winning the 1982 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series Special for The Elephant Man.

· 1965- Frank Galati: Member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, for which he wrote the 1990 Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Direction of a Play, an adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath. Galati has also won nine Joseph Jefferson Awards in recognition for his contributions to Chicagoland theatre.

· 1980- Megan Mullally: Television, theatre, and film actress who received seven Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance in Will & Grace from 2000 to 2006.

· 1980- Gregg Edelman: Stage actor with over a dozen Broadway credits.

· 1986- Jeff Blumenkrantz: Stage composer, lyricist, and actor known for his performances in Into the Woods, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Bright Star.

· 1989- Ana Gasteyer: Actress on Saturday Night Live from 1996 to 2002.

· 1990- Brian d’Arcy James: Actor known for his performances in Broadway productions of Hamilton, Shrek the Musical, and Sweet Smell of Success, for which he received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical in 2002.

· Enrolled 1992- Heather Headley: Stage actress known for her originating performances as Nala in The Lion King and the titular role of Aida, for which she won the 2000 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

· 1997- Zach Braff: Director, screenwriter, and actor best known for his Primetime Emmy Award-winning role, J.D., on the television series Scrubs from 2001 to 2010.

· 1999 - Kate Shindle: Miss America 1998, President of Actor’s Equity starting in 2015, and actress. She is best known for her performances as Sally Bowles and Allison Bechdel in the national tours of Cabaret and Fun Home, respectively, as well as originating the role of Vivienne Kensington in Legally Blonde on Broadway.

Complete List of Directors of the Waa-Mu Show


                                                                                    1929 - 1975                Joe W. Miller

                                                                                    1976 - 1990               Tom Roland

                                                                                    1991 - 1993                Tom Roland and Dominic Missimi

                                                                                    1994 - 2010                Dominic Missimi

                                                                                    2011 - 2017                 David H. Bell

                                                                                    2017 - Present           Stephen Schellhardt


Complete List of Shows

Year    Title            Co-Chairs

2020 State of the Art Leo Jared Scheck, Olivia Worley, Emma Griffone, Jonathan Toussaint

2019    For the Record       Gabriella Green, Ziare Paul-Emile, Alexander Rothfield, Lindsay Whisler

2018    Manhattan Miracle       Maxwell Beer, Kaja Burke-Williams, Sarah Ohlson, Andrew Restieri

2017    Beyond Belief:  A Superhero Story       Jessie Jennison, Charlotte Morris, Eric Peters, Justin Tepper

2016    Another Way West       Myrna Conn, Fergus Inder, Charlie Oh, Elizabeth Romero

2015    Gold      Hannah Dunn, Kylie Mullins, Max Rein

2014    Double Feature at Hollywood and Vine         Ryan Bernsten, Ryan Garson, Desiree Staples   

2013    Flying Home        Jack Mitchell, Jesse Rothschild, Ed Wasserman

2012    Off The Map        Jon Harrison, Rachel Shapiro, Patrick Sulken

2011    What's Next        Melissa Lynch, Liz Olanoff

2010    Keeping Time        RB Embleton, Lindsay Powell

2009    One For The Books    Julia Beck, Kaitlin Fine, Cara Rifkin, Eugenio Vargas

2008    Skylines            Kristin Johnson, Maureen Rohn

2007    The Club        Amanda Krieg, Justin Mann

2006    Jubilee!            Antonette Balestreri, Liz Kimball, Charlie Siebert

2005    Waiting In The Wings    Alan Schmuckler, Claire Wilmoth, Jarrod Zimmerman

2004    POMP and Circumstance       Kenneth Ferrone, Michael Mahler, Jessica Scholl  

2003    This Just In...        Amber Makalous, Christine Mild, Joe Schenck

2002    Are We There Yet?    Andrew Hotz, Emily Price, Kevin Vortmann

2001    Sorry, We're Booked    Jen Bender, Dan Brintz

2000    Past Perfect  Future Tense     Mark Ledbetter, Anne E. Mannal    

1999    New York, NU York    Matt Dudley, Kate Shindle, Kate Strohbehn

1998    Stay Tuned!        Meredith McDonough, Ian Roth

1997    All Grown Up!        Dan Lipton, Randy Meyer

1996    Timeless        Sloan Just, Kristofer McNeeley

1995    Rites Of Spring        Zeena Hamir, Jordan G. Neiman

1994    Lost & Found        Chad Borden, Matthew Meltzer, Alison Sneegas

1993    On The Town*        Chad Borden, Jason Cochran, Jennifer Gordon

1992    Hello, Big Time        Keith Everett, Richard Segall, Julie Williams

1991    Sign Me Up        Lisa Cavallari, Thomas Hoegh, Becca Kaufman, Matthew Mailman, Eric Saiet

1990    It's About Time        Thomas Hoegh, Brian James, Jody Plotkin, Brayer Teague, Todd Wadhams

1989    Throw Me A Line!    Brian Elliott, Stephen Gundersheim, Brian James, Jody Plotkin, Amanda Rogers

1988    What's In A Game?    Scott Benjaminson, Mark Ledogar, Lori Longstreth

1987    With A Twist        Martin Drobac, Laverne McKinnon, Scott Zacher

1986    Star-Craving Mad    John E. Kolb, Robert R. Walther

1985    Sumthing's Up        Richard Feldman, Janet Ponsiglione

1984    Suitable For Framing    Paul F. Burtis, Douglas T. Toth

1983    Wake The Neighbors,  Phone the Dog   Thaddeus A. Gentry, Dale S. Rieling

1982    Out On A Whim        Richard Heimler, Jodi Weinstein

1981    To The Memories    Fred Hanson, Jon Nakagawa

1980    Gimme A Break        John Burley, Nina Skriloff

1979    Cover To Cover        Winifred Freedman, Johan Sauer

1978    Wake Me At Eight    Robert Banks, Betsy Greene

1977    Wild Onions        Betsy Greene, Michael Higgins

1976    That's The Spirit        Philip Curley, Susan Socolowski

1975    Quick Change        Erik Haagensen, Suzanne Thomas

1974    Keep In Touch        Anne Arkin, Bryan England

1973    Kicks            Kathryn Blind, Daniel Connolly

1972    72 Flavors        Denise Jarrett, William J. Wilson

1971    Thanks A Lot        Estelle Danish, Andrew Harris

1970    Booster Shot        Sandra Holland, Michael Meagher

1969    Present Tense        Murray Dawson, Barbara Lehner

1968    The Natives Are RestlessFrank Corbin, Barbara Klages

1967    You'll Get Used To It    Louis Magor, Marilyn McGredy

1966    Strings & Things        Patricia Baggs, Dwight Frindt

1965    Promise Not To Tell    Edward Euler, Judith Pinkerton

1964    Something In The Wind    Sue Ramaker, Robert Strunk

1963    Mud In Your Eye    Michael Griffith, Carole Shirreffs

1962    Signs Of Life        Robert Bonges, Karla Herbold

1961    Don't Make A Scene    Bruce Burmester, Virginia Jung

1960    Among Friends        Elizabeth Wehde, William J. White

1959    Good Grief        Glenna Arnold, John Gerber

1958    Sing No Evil        Richard Kissel, Carolyn Robson

1957    Caught In The Act    Carol Beachler, Ronald Church

1956    Silver Jubilee        Jon Larson, Ann Palmer

1955    High Time        Joyce Lemon, Jeremy Wilson

1954    See Here        Robert Magee, Jane Taylor

1953    Reach For The Sky    Rosetta Beamer, Allan Bowermaster

1952    Taxi, Please        Leona Iwaniec, G. Allan West

1951    That Reminds Me    Carol Anderson, William G. Whitney

1950    Look Who's Talking    Jane Harr, John F. Hayford

1949    What's The Rush    Nancy Henninger, Cliff Mezey

1948    See How They Run    Walt Kemp, A. Rae Womble

1947    Break The News        Pete Peterson, Juanita Richards

1946    Here We Go Again    Doris Helm, Max Myover

1943, 1944, 1945        No Waa-Mu performances during World War II

1942    Wish You Were Here    Bev Coffman, Dick Jager

1941    Wait A Minute        William Barr, Janice Raymond

1940    Here's Your Party    Don J. Ramaker, Frances F. Whittemore

1939    Guess Again        Al Hickox, Ruth Marcus

1938    Of Thee I Sing*        Betsy Garrison, George Kemp

1937    Don't Look Now        Robert W. Grant Jr., Ruth Hoagland

1936    It Goes To Show    Clay Hoffer, Frank Seyl

1935    Good News*        Robert Goman, Zaida Hutchins

1934    Sweet Music        Virginia Cleaveland, Charles Southward

1933    Hats Off        Robert McManus, Virginia Stone

1932    Step This Way        Eloise Barclay, Howard Packard

1931    Many Thanks        Jack Leach, Avis Lundahl

1930    Whoa There        Ethel Finn, Preston Weir

1929    Good Morning Glory    Lois Stewart, Darrell Ware