Waa-Mu Show, the musical revue that helped to launch the careers
of dozens of Broadway and Hollywood performers, has been a campus
tradition for more than 70 years. This year marks the 70th production
in its history.
The goal of the
annual show is to celebrate all the aspects of music theater and
highlight the talents of undergraduate student performers.
who have appeared in past Waa-Mu shows have included Claude
Atkins, Warren Beatty, Karen Black, Nancy Dussault, Sheldon Harnick,
Heather Headley, Carol Lawrence, Cloris Leachman, Ann-Margret,
and former Miss America Kate Shindle.
The first Waa-Mu
Show was presented by the Womens Athletic Association and
the Mens Union during the 1929-30 academic year. Joe Miller
(29) and Darrell Ware (29), two Phi Delta Theta seniors,
wrote the script and staged the college musical comedy that became
"Waa-Mu." To help finance the first production, Miller
and Ware raised $1,200 by borrowing $5 a piece from interested
stood for the Womans Athletic Association, which had been
staging popular female musical comedies since 1912. The "Mu"
was inspired by the Mens Union, which had presented less
successful all-male comic operas for a number of years.
It also was Millers
and Wares idea to feature both male and female students
in their premiere production. At first, the female "Waa"
committee was reluctant about sharing the stage with the male
"Mu" members, but they eventually agreed to combine
The premiere show
that Miller and Ware collaborated on, "Good Morning Glory,"
was such a smash that the Daily Northwestern wrote, "Campus
interest is the highest yet for any single dramatic activity in
University history." The glowing review prompted the producers
to begin formulating and writing the following years show
When the annual
Waa-Mu show became a "hit," it attracted the most talented
students on campus. 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.
In 1938, Waa-Mu
board members werent pleased with that years student-written
script. Instead, they staged George Gershwins 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.
from Northwestern, Ware headed to Hollywood to write screenplays
and Miller remained at the University. He became director of student
affairs, and directed the Waa-Mu Show until 1975. Tom Roland succeeded
Miller as the second director of the Waa-Mu productions in 1976.
For the past seven
years, Waa-Mu has been directed by Dominic Missimi, associate
professor of theatre and director of the Music Theatre Program
at Northwestern. Although Waa-Mu is a major student performed
and organized show, Missimi likes to assemble an impressive staff
of award-winning collaborators for the annual production in order
to give the students involved an opportunity to work with prominent
music theater experts, as well as provide the audience with a
Waa-Mu went on
hiatus during the World War II years, but was re-launched in 1946
with a show that featured two students who went on to become television
and stage comedy legends, Paul Lynde (48) and Charlotte
Rae (48). Rae used her last name Lubotsky when she was a
Warren Beatty (59)
donned a cowboy hat and a Native American headdress and buckskins
for his stage appearances in the Silver Jubilee of Waa-Mu in 1956,
prior to becoming a leading man in movies. In 1960, Ann-Margret
Olson (63) was a cast member in a Waa-Mu show entitled "Among
has been performed off-campus. The show traveled to Chicago several
times after its Evanston run. And renowned orchestra leader Fred
Waring played original Waa-Mu songs on the radio in 1951.
In 1981, the 50th
anniversary show spoofed the Universitys history and reprised
numbers from previous "Waa-Mu" productions.
have been presented at Cahn Auditorium since 1940, the year that
Scott Hall was completed. At the time, Cahn was considered one
of the best-equipped theaters in the Midwest.
The Waa-Mu Show
continues to serve as an important launching pad for many of the
Universitys most talented performers. Many former Waa-Mu
performers have gone on to successful careers on Broadway and
later, Waa-Mu is still billed as "the greatest college show
in America," and it always draws large and loyal audiences.