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.
· 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