The 92nd annual Waa-Mu Show takes audience through a whirlwind of love stories with “Romance en Route”


Photo courtesy of Jonathan Kirn

“Romance En Route.” The 92nd annual Waa-Mu show at Cahn Auditorium runs six times from April 28 to May 7.

Kara Peeler, Development and Recruitment Editor

Love is in the air at Cahn Auditorium. 

The 92nd annual Waa-Mu Show, “Romance en Route,” is a romantic comedy musical following six characters’ interwoven experiences of love and heartbreak all the way from O’Hare International Airport to Paris. 

The story explores romance as couples both lose love to find love. Characters Eve and Xander meet on a plane to Paris to rendezvous with their respective partners, Lexi and Jenna. There’s also hopeless romantic and ever-optimistic flight attendant Tristan, who meets cynical hotel concierge Matthieu in Paris. Together Tristan and Matthieu meddle with the fates of the other four in a match-making ploy. 

“Romance En Route” began its run April 28 and will run a total of six shows through Sunday in Cahn. 

The Waa-Mu Show is an annual musical tradition written, performed and produced by Northwestern students. According to Waa-Mu Co-Chair and Communication senior Madeline Oberle, this year’s team comprises about 100 students, including 22 performers. 

Communication junior Matheus Barbee, who plays Tristan, said Waa-Mu’s “vast legacy” of telling NU students’ stories is what makes the show so special.

“The sheer magnitude of the task and the level of excellence to which it’s been carried is going to leave people in awe,” he said. “I hope that in their hearts, they feel like they want to go give someone a hug. I feel like that’s really like what this story is asking us to do, is to remind us that love is everywhere.” 

The show’s scenic design featured movable sconces that adapt the stage to an array of distinct settings — an airport, a plane, a hotel, a bridge and the streets of Paris. This year, undergraduate students helped design the costumes and set, rather than only graduate students, according to Barbee.  

The pitch behind “Romance en Route” started with a true story from Waa-Mu writer and ensemble member, Communication sophomore Sadie Fridley. Fridley was on a flight when she overheard the people in front of her, Matthew and Trisha, were going to visit their partners — also named Matthew and Trisha. 

After listening to them and feeling like the plane seatmates were meant to be with each other instead, the idea for “Romance en Route” was born. In a nod to the name quirk, Oberle said the names Jenna and Eve are meant to sound like derivatives of Genevive, with Xander and Lexi coming from Alexander to mimic the matching names on her flight. 

In the writers’ room, Oberle said it was clear from day one that Fridley’s pitch would become the show selected. 

“It’s just a silly rom-com that also goes against so many of the tropes that make people hate rom-coms as a field (because) of how white-centric they are,” Oberle said. 

Four of the show’s six leads and more than half the cast are people of color, according to Oberle. 

The show also extensively includes queer relationships without falling into the trope of emphasizing a gay awakening or tokenizing queerness, Oberle added. Barbee said “Romance en Route” makes the rom-com genre more reflective of different sexualities. 

“We all love a good rom-com, we love how it makes us feel, we love the joy that it brings us,” Barbee said. “Being able to tell that story through the lens of queer relationships, through song and through dance is very exciting and very beautiful.” 

Weinberg sophomore Avery Powers, the Waa-Mu music coordinator and writing board member, said that while the show is reminiscent of 2000s rom-coms, what sets it apart is the diverse depictions of types of love and healthy breakups. 

“There’s obviously conflict between the characters, but it resolves so perfectly where everyone who’s meant to be ends up with each other,” Weinberg freshman Anand Choudhary, who plays  Matthieu, said. “And then it’s just this perfect little happy ending.” 

Choudhary said the Waa-Mu community grew close, especially as students rehearsed four hours a day during the week and eight hours on Saturdays leading up to the show.

He said the musical evolved throughout the yearlong process of being written and produced, with changes made even days before the first performance. 

Marketing Director and Communication sophomore Efren Ponce said Waa-Mu is on track to reach its ticket sales goal for this year, which is “a win for everyone” and “a testament to everyone’s worth.”

He said sales have generally fallen since the COVID-19 pandemic, so the organization is still “getting its footing.”

Later this year, Waa-Mu will release a Spotify album for all songs in “Romance en Route,” according to Oberle. The final performances of “Romance en Route” will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Powers said even when the team had to dedicate lots of time and effort, the love and care for the show still shone through.

“I hope (the audience) just leaves feeling a little warm and fuzzy, believing in love and also believing in the humanity of people,” Powers said. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @karapeeler

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