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Changes in Store for 80th Anniversary Waa-Mu, 'What's Next'

David H. Bell to direct annual Northwestern student production for first time

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April 22, 2011 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Diehard Waa-Mu fans can expect some changes when the curtain rises on Northwestern University’s 80th anniversary stage production of the acclaimed student revue that has featured Tony Award-winning actress and Grammy Award-winning singer Heather Headley and Tony and Drama Desk Award winning-Broadway composer Larry Grossman.

In addition to new director David H. Bell -- who has 41 Joseph Jefferson (“Jeff”) nominations, winning 11, as well as London’s Laurence Olivier Award to his credit -- the show has been re-imagined and makes use of nearly two dozen student writers, many of whom are creating material as part of their classes.

Waa-Mu, “What’s Next?” will be staged at 8 p.m. Friday, April 29; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 30; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 1; 8 p.m. Thursday, May 5; 8 p.m. Friday, May 6; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 7 and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., on the University’s Evanston campus.

“We have introduced a half dozen courses that students can take that relate to the show,” says Bell, who is a School of Communication associate professor and the Donald G. Robertson Director of Music Theatre. “Working on Waa-Mu no longer has to be an extracurricular activity. For students interested in writing, directing, staging, and musical orchestration, Waa-Mu is an important part of their class work. The integration of Northwestern’s celebrated annual revue and class work will lead to shows that are even more sophisticated in plot structure and more in line with the very best model of musical theatre.”

No longer a revue comprised of non-related skits, “What’s Next?” retains recurring characters and a singular storyline -- an approach typical of a Broadway musical. It follows a group of Northwestern student artists through four years of college and poses questions college students often ponder: What inspires the choices I make? What might have been had I taken a different path? And, of course, what lies ahead?

The two-and-a-half hour production includes a 15-minute intermission. It features the world premiere of 40 student-written songs and a 42-member cast of performers, in addition to choreographers and musicians. The orchestra will be conducted by Ryan T. Nelson, music director-in-residence for the Theatre and Interpretation Center.

“With no fewer than 22 student writers contributing to this year’s production, Waa-Mu is no longer simply a student show,” said Bell. “It’s a flagship of our writing program.”

(Editor’s note: Waa-Mu 2011 contains strong language and parental discretion is advised.)

 

Tickets are $28 (tier one) or $21 (tier two) for the general public; $17 for seniors and Northwestern faculty and staff and area educators and administrators; and $11 for full-time students with valid IDs. Tickets may be purchased by phone from the Theatre and Interpretation Center Box Office at (847) 491-7282, or online at www.communication.northwestern.edu/tic/waamu/.