87th annual Waa-Mu show to celebrate the origins of musical theater

‘ Manhattan Miracle’ runs May 4 to 13 at Cahn Auditorium

EVANSTON – The annual extravaganza that Associated Press calls the “greatest college show in America” mines the origins of musical theater when the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University co-presents the latest edition of the Waa-Mu Show, a musical entirely written by students.

The 87th annual Waa-Mu Show, “Manhattan Miracle,” will run May 4 to 13 at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., on the Evanston campus.

The story opens in late 19th century New York. Days before opening, a failing melodrama finds itself in need of an overhaul. Simultaneously, a Parisian ballet troupe is left without a theater in the wake of a devastating fire. Racing against the clock and praying for a miracle, the troupes decide to combine their talents and create a new show with dance, drama and song. Against all odds, the ragtag group of artists learns to work together and create not only the very first American musical, but also a spectacular hit.

The Waa-Mu musical is written, composed, choreographed and co-produced by more than 100 Northwestern students. A Northwestern professor of musical theater in the School of Communication, Bell is an award-winning professional director who has worked extensively around the world.

The Waa-Mu Show began in 1929 when the Women’s Athletic Association (W.A.A.) joined forces with the Men’s Union (M.U.) in a performance of original, student-written material. The show was traditionally a musical revue, consisting of Northwestern-inspired vignettes tied together by a theme. However, over the last five years, the Waa-Mu Show has evolved into an original full-length musical.

Waa-Mu’s pre-professional environment has been an incubator for young theatrical superstars throughout its history. Past cast members include Walter Kerr in the 1930s; Claude Akins, Sheldon Harnick, Cloris Leachman, Paul Lynde, Charlotte Rae and Tony Randall in the 1940s; Warren Beatty, Penny Fuller and Garry Marshall in the 1950s; Karen Black, Frank Galati, Ann-Margret and Tony Roberts in the 1960s; Laura Innes and Shelley Long in the 1970s; Gregg Edelman, Ana Gasteyer and Megan Mullally in the 1980s; Zach Braff, Brian d’Arcy James, Heather Headley, Jason Moore and Kate Shindle in the 1990s; and more recently, Jenny Powers.

Performances of “Manhattan Miracle” are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. A 2 p.m. matinee performance will be presented Saturday, May 12.

The Waa-Mu musical is written, composed, choreographed and co-produced by more than 100 Northwestern students. The show was traditionally a musical revue, consisting of Northwestern-inspired vignettes tied together by a theme. Over the last five years, the Waa-Mu Show has evolved into an original full-length musical.

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