Waa-Mu has been around for 80 years, but that doesn’t make this year’s show the 80th. Northwestern’s all-original musical revue took a brief hiatus during World War II when there weren’t enough men around for the production to take off.
For the unfamiliar, Waa-Mu has been one of Northwestern’s most widely attended shows for decades. It features song-and-dance numbers and comedic sketches that have been performed nowhere else. Additionally, a theme is picked for the Waa-Mu show every year. Past themes include Skylines, The Club and Are We There Yet?
And after all that time, One For the Books is all about keeping with the tradition that has lived with Waa-Mu throughout, said Communication senior and co-chair of this year’s show, Eugenio Vargas. The tradition in question has everything to do with the all-new content — a compilation of work from various writers. Vargas and his fellow co-chairs have good reason to stick to the show’s now classic format; after all, it once earned Waa-Mu praise from the Associated Press, which claimed that it was “the greatest college show in America.”
Such a title may seem hard to live up to, but for the co-chairs of the show, meeting — if not exceeding — expectations, wasn’t much of a worry.
“We all have three years’ experience apiece in past Waa-Mu’s,” said co-chair Communication senior Cara Rifkin, “So we’ve had plenty of time to see what works well, and what works better.”
With all the time for perfection, Waa-Mu has produced an impressive amount of talent. With alumni including Sheldon Harnick (lyricist, Fiddler on the Roof), and Warren Beatty (Dick Tracy, Bonnie and Clyde) it has become known as a launch pad for stars of various persuasions.
It’s hard to tell what’s the highlight of this year’s Waa-Mu show. Maybe it’s the scantily clad librarians. Maybe it’s the dark twist on Goodnight, Moon. Maybe it’s the ‘choose your own adventure’ segment. Maybe it’s Ron Weasley exclaiming to Hermione Granger that she is his “Sorcerer’s Stone.” Maybe you’ll have to go and see yourself.
This year, the show’s theme, One for the Books, focuses on the varied characters and creations of recognized literature, encompassing segments featuring Waldo, the one who can’t be found; Harold, with the purple crayon; Rachel Ray; Jane Fonda; and others, in a series of never-before-seen sketches and musical numbers. Some acts feature soloists while others involve entire chorus lines of dancers. Waa-Mu features performers drawn from a pool of over 200 auditioning students, which, according to Rifkin, provides the show with “the best cast on campus, by far.”
The show is a product of a school year’s worth of writing, scoring, arranging and casting, a process that began last fall. And after that?
“We come back from spring break, and its ‘go, go, go!’” Communication senior Kaitlin Fine exclaimed, referring to the relatively brief rehearsal time the show is allotted — about four weeks.
Throughout the process, Waa-Mu benefits from overwhelming support, beginning with a “large chunk” of university money. Help and guidance from Director Dominic Missimi, Northwestern professors and departments, professional choreographers and various other individuals also make the process possible, Vargas said. The result is a long-term familial experience that keeps bringing back alumni from decades past to see the show, Rifkin said. Rifkin, Vargas, Beck and Fine, for example, have all been involved in Waa-Mu since their freshman years, and appear as actors, singers, and dancers in this year’s show as well.
Even if you don’t know someone who is involved, the show is still worth going to, said Communication senior co-chair Julia Beck.
“This show is smart, this show is funny, the cast is incredible. I’m biased, but I’m going to say that this one of the better Waa-Mu shows,” Beck said.
Deborah Kim contributed reporting.