The Waa-Mu Show

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The Waa-Mu Show logo
The Waa-Mu Show is held in Cahn Auditorium at Northwestern University

The Waa-Mu Show (pronounced "wah mew") is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization within Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, that produces student written, orchestrated, produced, and performed original musical theatre work every year. The song lyrics, script, and music are developed in a series of classes.[1] It is the institution's longest standing theatrical tradition and is held in Cahn Auditorium on Northwestern's campus. This tradition began as a musical revue, showcasing several different student-written Northwestern-inspired vignettes connected by one single theme.[2] Over the last six years[when?], the Waa-Mu show has evolved into an original full-length musical.[3]


The first Waa-Mu show took place in 1929. A senior Northwestern student Joseph W. Miller and his classmate Darrell Ware wrote the script for and staged the college musical comedy that became "The Waa-Mu Show," the first co-educational college musical show. The Women's Athletic Association (WAA) and the Men's Union (MU) collaborated to put on the first show. The name "Waa-Mu" is derived from the synthesis of the two groups' acronyms.[3][4]

The WAA had been staging popular all-female musical comedies since 1912; the MU had presented less successful all-male comic operas for a number of years prior to 1929. Both men's and women's shows had been losing money and Miller and Ware raised $1,200 by borrowing $5 a piece from interested students to finance the first show. It also was Miller's and Ware's idea to feature both male and female students in their premiere production.[4] At first, the female WAA committee was reluctant about sharing the stage with the male Mu members, but they eventually agreed to combine talents. The premiere show that Miller and Ware collaborated on was Good Morning Glory.[4] The Daily Northwestern wrote, "Campus interest is the highest yet for any single dramatic activity in University history." This review prompted the producers to begin formulating and writing the following year's show. Walter Kerr was the principal writer for the 1936 musical revue entitled It Goes to Show. Kerr graduated the following year and eventually become a famous theatre critic for the New York Times. After graduating in 1929, Joe Miller stayed at Northwestern to do graduate work in personnel administration, and Darrell Ware went to Hollywood to write screenplays. In 1931 Northwestern president Walter Dill Scott offered Miller a position on the university's staff as Freshman Advisor and Waa-Mu Director.[4]

In 1938, Waa-Mu board members were not pleased with that year's student-written script. Instead, they staged George Gershwin's musical Of Thee I Sing, about a presidential candidate who promises to bring more love to the White House. Actor Tony Randall (who was then known as Leonard Rosenberg), portrayed a boisterous Texas congressman in the production.[5] Only three times in Waa-Mu's history has non-original material been presented; in 1935 with Ray Henderson's musical Good News, in 1938, with George Gershwin's musical Of Thee I Sing, and in 1993 with Leonard Bernstein's musical On the Town.

Waa-Mu went on hiatus during the World War II years, but was re-launched in 1946. During the three-year break, profits from previous Waa-Mu productions were invested in war bonds. Miller directed the Waa-Mu Show until 1975; his last show was Quick Change. He retired on August 31, 1975 and died in 1979. Tom Roland succeeded Miller as the second director of the Waa-Mu productions in 1976. Occasionally, Waa-Mu has been performed off-campus. The show traveled to Chicago several times after its Evanston run, most notably in 1931 (at the Civic Theatre in Chicago) and 1933. And renowned orchestra leader Fred Waring played original Waa-Mu songs on the radio in 1951.

Waa-Mu performances have been presented at Cahn Auditorium since its 1941 production, Wait A Minute, premiering on the new stage the same year that Scott Hall was completed. Before performances began in Cahn Auditorium, Waa-Mu productions were held at and around the Evanston area, at the New Evanston Theatre and the National College of Education.

Statements of the Organization[edit]

Mission Statement: The Waa-Mu Show aims to share stories that engage the hearts and minds of Northwestern's campus as well as that of the greater community. The Waa-Mu Show aspires to give students an unparalleled experience that prepares them to lead and advance the world of musical theatre.

Values Statement: The 2017-2018 Co-Chairs aim to facilitate a world class educational opportunity in the writing, performance, and administration of new musical theatre. In doing so, we also strive to foster an inclusive and collaborative community that allows students to learn from one another, while making memories that will last a lifetime.


Current Team[edit]


Current Director[edit]

Stephen Schellhardt is the current director of the Waa-Mu show and has been in the role since 2018.

Creative Team[edit]

Program Head: Stephen Schellhardt

Director: Stephen Schellhardt

Music Director: Ryan T. Nelson

Co-Chairs: Gabby Green, Ziare Paul-Emile, Alex Rothfield, Lindsay Whisler

Executive Board[edit]

Accessibility, Inclusion, and Diversity Co-Directors: Emma Giffone & Amy Prochaska

Alumni Relations Co-Directors: Gaby Godinez & Mia Navarez

Community Programming Co-Directors: Alexa Moster & Jon Toussaint

Development Director: Mia Lennon

Digital Media Director: Eli Cohen

Events Director: Natalie Welch

Historian: Nolan Robinson

Marketing Director: Theo Janke-Furman

Merchandise: Hope Banach

Production Manager: Jessica Nekritz

Promotions Director: Emmett Smith

Public Relations Director: Olivia Worley

Treasurer: Leo Jared Scheck

Waa-2 Co-Directors: Peter Carroll, Danielle Kerr, Ruchir Khazanchi, Lydia Weir

Executive Team Members:

Ruchir Khazanchi, Jasmine Sharma, Rachel Khutorsky, Aubrey Leaman, Elvan Babuna, Gaby Godinez, Hannah Hakim, Alexa Moster, Jessica Nekritz, Vy Duong, Shealyn Abbott, Theo Janke-Furman, Jillian Korey, Emmet Smith, Josh Krivan, Madi Hart, Stella Cole, Jake Larimer, Hope Banach, & Eli Cohen

Previous Directors[edit]

All shows from 1929-1975 Directed by Joe W. Miller

All shows from 1976-1990 Directed by Tom Roland

All shows from 1991-1993 Co-Directed by Tom Roland and Dominic Missimi

All shows from 1994-2010 Directed by Dominic Missimi

All shows from 2011–2012 Directed by David H. Bell

2013 Directed by Michael Goldberg

All shows from 2014–2017 Directed by David H. Bell

All shows from 2018–Present[when?] Directed by Stephen Schellhardt

Notable alumni[edit]


Several different positions and sub-groups with distinct responsibilities exist within the institution to ease the process of creating an original musical each year. They include:

Program Head: A staff member of the Theatre & Interpretation Center who leads the creation process and makes all final decisions. The Program Head is typically the director of the production as well.

Co-Chairs: The student leaders of the organization who work alongside the Program Head to make decisions about creative and administrative matters.

Head Writers: The student leaders who are in charge of generating and combining material to form a cohesive script for the show.

Executive Board: A group of students who work under the Co-Chairs to handle all administrative, financial and organizational needs.

Creating the Musical Class: A large group of students enrolled in a winter class who generate material for the show including: the script, songs, and lyrics.

Orchestrating the Musical Class: A group of students enrolled in a winter class who generate orchestrations for the show; many of whom go on to join Team Music.

Team Music: A group of students led by the Music Director that creates all of the orchestrations for the songs generated in the Creating the Musical class as well as the incidental music and overture.

Recent Performances[edit]

Another Way West[edit]

The 2016 performance was titled Another Way West. The story follows a female researcher, accompanied by her nieces and nephews, on the Oregon Trail searching for her late ancestor. This show merges the journeys of both the researcher and her ancestor on the Oregon Trail.[1]


In 2015, the students put on Gold, based on the 1936 Olympics. The plot centered around journalists sent to report about the Olympics, specifically focusing on the US Basketball Team, the US Swim Team, and the US Track and Field Team. Opening night for the show was May 1, 2015.[6]

Double Feature at Hollywood and Vine, an adaptation of Twelfth Night[edit]

Inspired by the Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, the 2014 Waa-Mu Show was Double Feature at Hollywood and Vine. The protagonist, Viola, disguises herself as a man in order to find fame as an actor in the 1930s. Opening night for the show was May 2, 2014.[7]

Flying Home[edit]

The performance in 2013 entitled, Flying Home, combined the ideas of three very well known productions, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz. The main theme of this production is about adolescents leaving home and developing throughout college. Opening night for this performance was May 3, 2013.[8]

List of Shows[edit]

Year Show Co-Chairs
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 (stopped 75% student ticket plan)
1970 Booster Shot Sandra Holland, Michael Meagher
1969 Present Tense Murray Dawson, Barbara Lehner
1968 The Natives Are Restless Frank 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 Production) Waa-Mu suspends performances during World War II years. Previous show profits invested in war bonds.
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 (adapted the revue format officially)
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 (sold to Universal Pictures; Life Begins At College)
1929 Good Morning Glory Lois Stewart, Darrell Ware

Shows with (*) denote previously produced and non-student written material.


  1. ^ a b Petlicki, Myrna. "Northwestern's Waa-Mu show takes to the Oregon Trail". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  2. ^ "Waa-Mu Show". Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  3. ^ a b "The 86th Annual Waa-Mu Show | Northwestern University School of Communication". Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  4. ^ a b c d Moore, Judy (March 29, 2001). "Waa-Mu: Northwestern's long-running version of Star Search". Northwestern Observer. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  5. ^ Morledge, Kirk (1980). To the memories: A history of the Northwestern University Waa-Mu Show, 1929-1980. Evanston, Ill. : The University.
  6. ^ Choi, Matthew. "84th Waa-Mu Show set to open Friday". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  7. ^ Rense, Sarah. "Waa-Mu celebrates 83 years by breaking some traditions, honoring others". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  8. ^ Caiola, Sammy. "Waa-Mu's 'Flying Home' whisks seniors off with fantastic style". The Daily Northwestern. Retrieved 2016-10-21.

External links[edit]