Waa-Mu Review: "Manhattan Miracle" - Miraculously Short
Everyone’s a sinner, but David Bell especially for letting this monstrosity see the light of day.
That’s right everyone, it’s that time of year again. Waa-Mu season is here, and it’s still just 500-something theater majors getting together to perform some song and dance for the elderly citizens of Evanston. If there were any calls for an encore, it was because most of the audience members forgot what happened by curtain call. And honestly? I can’t blame them.
“Manhattan Miracle,” the 87th Annual Waa-Mu show, leaves attendees wondering what exactly the miracle of the night was. Some potential miracles include a group of actors having their careers pan out, a 19th century newspaper employing a woman, or the show being under three hours. It’s up in the air. This reviewer is a New Yorker himself, and the only Manhattan miracle I know is catching a cab on 34th street on a weekday. Know what I’m talkin’ about? Nah? Fuggedaboutit.
It’s a good thing someone decided to finally tell a story about The Big Apple. It’s odd that all these years, no one’s ever told a story about New York, but here we are. The Waa team recreated New York City through the cunning use of three decorative street lamps and wooden scaffolds. Despite this spot-on depiction of the Empire State, there wasn’t a single mugging by the end of the opening number, which brought the authenticity of the setting into question. Though the title of the show understandably lends itself to a nice little alliteration, it does result in the exclusion of New York’s finest boroughs. I still want to see Staten Island Sensation. Where’s the love for the only section of NYC that voted for Trump this past November?
Speaking of our president, this year’s production was rife with scandal. It should be noted that two of the shows co-chairs were cast in the show. Highly questionable. One of those chairs plays a banker who bribes their way into the show within the show. Can you imagine how much worse the 2008 financial crisis would have been if banks also used their power to cast local branch managers in Broadway shows? One can only fathom such horror.
Oh yes, the show is about another theatrical show. So if you were already averse to musical theater, this musical is a musical about musical theater. It’s like Michael Cohen’s lawyer, but the theater version of that. The main drama of the show is that--gasp!--the show just isn’t ready. The actors haven’t memorized their lines, there isn’t any funding and there’s a dearth of rehearsal space. If I wanted to see theater majors loudly freaking out about a show, I would have just sat around in Norris for a while. Still, it’s fun to see Northwestern’s actors pretending to be employed artists on stage.
One thing’s for certain about this year’s performance: one of the writers studied abroad and thought, “Ah yes, let’s include Europe!” The plot features La Biche Au Bois, which on paper reads as an overpriced cologne for men, but is actually a fictional troupe of performers who come from across the Atlantic to make a big, accented fuss about their art. Fortunately, their show is canceled after the theater they were set to perform at goes up in flames due to a broken fire machine (Is a fire machine really broken if it went up in flames? Sleep on that). A second thing’s for certain: if there’s ever a fire, you can count on theater majors to stand by idly and sing about the fire.
In this fictional world, the actors are able to work together to create a piece of engaging, exciting theater. In the process, the team discovers that combining drama, dance and song is way more appealing than either component on their own, which begs the question: why does a cappella continue to be a thing? The finale solves one of the protagonists worries of solidifying his legacy, a quandary that could have easily been resolved with the donation of a multimillion dollar building to Northwestern University.
Much like the fashion sense of the characters in the show, the Waa-Mu show is a thing of the past at 87 years old. All good things must come to an end, but so must all so-so things. They already made Hamilton and Spongebob the Musical, so I don’t really see what’s left to be done.
“Manhattan Miracle” closes on May 13th after an embarrassingly short two-week run.