Nintendo-themed comedy musical ‘The Waario’ is a dream come true, literally


Anita Li/The Daily Northwestern

Actors Mario Montes and Kieran Rowe playing Maario and Luiigi respectively, kiss onstage.

Anita Li, Assistant Audio Editor

The idea for a Nintendo-themed musical came to Bienen sophomore Khoi Le in a dream.

And after just three days of rehearsal in a Willard Residential College seminar room, 45-minute-long comedy-musical “The Waario” debuted in Fisk Hall on Jan. 6.

Le and Communication sophomores Baz Holifield and Gavin Shaub discussed who they would hypothetically cast before Winter Break and sent out a fake callback email as a joke. Afterward, the students they emailed started asking about callback times and then the cast list.

“We were like, ‘Why don’t we rehearse it and make an actual show?’” Holifield said. “As more and more people became interested, we realized more and more people find this fun.”

178 students reserved seats to watch spin-offs of Nintendo characters like Maario, Luiigi, Toad, Peach and Bowser swearing, flipping people off and making sexual references.

The musical, written by Holifield over Winter Break, features Waario (based on Nintendo character Wario) on a mission to defeat Bowser. 

The plot is repeatedly interrupted by scenes of actors playing Weinberg sophomore Bobby Axelrod, who himself portrays Toad. 

The Bobby Axelrods perform random theatrical bits, including singing Billy Joel’s “Vienna” acapella or attempting to perform a magic trick. Showtunes such as melodies from “Hamilton” and “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” with Shaub’s rewritten lyrics are scattered throughout the production.

The show ends when the real Axelrod becomes angry at the mockery and storms offstage and out of the room. After a few minutes of fervent discussion between Shaub and Holifield, during which the audience shouted, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”, Shaub announced the show was over, and the actors took their bows. 

“I really liked it,” Communication freshman Ciara Farris said after the show. “I’m not 100% convinced that it’s over. I feel like something weird is happening, and I can’t tell if it’s a joke or if I’m supposed to sit here for an hour as a test of patience or something. But it was really funny.”

Holifield said he drew inspiration from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” for the ending. He wanted to break traditional theatrical conventions by breaking the fourth wall and leaving nothing quite resolved.

“The Waario” was produced independently, meaning it was not produced under a theatre board. This meant the team didn’t have external funding and had to find its own location, leading to two location changes. 

Though unusual, the independence gave the cast a lot of creative freedom. For example, Communication sophomore Nick Hollenbeck, who played Waario, said he was able to add in a line to the script and pick his own costume.

“We want to create accessible theatre where you don’t need context, you don’t need to be educated on a topic,” Hollenbeck said. “You can just go enjoy it.”

Shows typically rehearse for weeks before opening night, but with the musical’s much shorter preparation time, some actors performed while reading the script on their phones, and others performed without having attended any rehearsals. 

Shaub embraced leaving the acting up to chance and having fun.

“No matter what I direct, what Baz writes, (the actors) are gonna be really funny with it, even if they’re reading it for the first time,” Shaub said. “This show embraces chaos a lot, (while) a lot of theatre embraces perfectionism within its process. With a comedy, it’s a lot of fun to lean into chaos.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Nick Hollenbeck’s last name. The Daily regrets the error.

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