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Follow the Waa-Mu 2012 'Off the Map' Cast to New Orleans

April 27 to May 6 production features news songs and skits and 42-member cast

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April 25, 2012 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- “Off The Map” -- the 2012 student-written production of Northwestern University’s Waa-Mu show -- follows a group of soon-to-be graduates of Northwestern to New Orleans, as they break free of campus life in search of one last, great adventure.

The production -- a longtime Northwestern tradition -- is directed and choreographed by internationally renowned artistic director and choreographer David H. Bell. Bell, Northwestern’s Donald G. Robertson Director of Music Theatre, has been nominated for 43 and won 11 Joseph Jefferson (“Jeff”) Awards, and received London’s prestigious Laurence Olivier Award. 

Ryan T. Nelson, the School of Communication’s music director, is the production’s conductor and music supervisor.

A cast of 42 Northwestern undergraduates will perform the show, which Bell said “celebrates anyone who has ever taken a risk to find their own way in their search for self-discovery.“ 

Performances will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, April 27; 8 p.m. Saturday, April 28; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 29; 8 p.m. Thursday, May 3; 8 p.m. Friday, May 4; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 5; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6, at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

Waa-Mu’s three student co-chairs -- Jon Harrison, Patrick Sulken and Rachel Shapiro -- are working with more than 50 Northwestern students to compose music, write lyrics, create a book and orchestrate the more than 30 original songs that will be featured in Waa-Mu 2012, the 81st edition. 

The production is a result of two new winter quarter courses -- “Creating a Musical” and “Orchestrating a Musical” taught by Bell and Nelson, respectively. Waa-Mu is gradually replacing its revue format of unrelated skits with more complex and meaningful storytelling. 

“There is a lot of wonderful stuff to embrace in “Off The Map,” including the students salute to old musicals,” said Bell. “I am convinced that if Joe Miller were creating a vehicle like Waa-Mu today -- as he did with the first Waa-Mu in 1928 -- he, too, would strive to create a musical that rivals the best shows on Broadway.”

The Waa-Mu production began as a joint effort of the University’s Women’s Athletic Association (WAA) and Men’s Union (MU) during the 1928-29 academic year. It soon garnered a reputation as one of “the greatest college shows in America” and has been an important launching pad for many talented and respected performers. 

Past cast members of Waa-Mu 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.

Single tickets are $30 (tier one) or $25 (tier two) for the general public; $20 for seniors and Northwestern faculty and staff and area educators and administrators; and $10 for full-time students with valid IDs. 

Single or group tickets are available through the Theatre and Interpretation Center at Northwestern University’s Box Office at (847) 491-7282 or online at www.waamu.northwestern.edu.