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On the run with the Music Theatre Company

Chris Miller (right) Nathan Tysen

Chris Miller (right) and Nathan Tysen

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‘Fugitive Songs’ in Concert

8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 2-11

The Music Theatre Company, 1850 Green Bay Road, Highland Park


(847) 579-4900;

Updated: November 1, 2012 4:14PM

Whether it’s people, places or predicaments, everyone is running away from something in “Fugitive Songs.”

Five multi-talented performers — Alan Schmuckler, Andrew Mueller, Sophie Grimm, Patrick Martin and Diana Lawrence — will sing and play instruments in the Music Theatre Company’s staging of the Chris Miller (music) and Nathan Tysen (lyrics) song cycle. Jess McLeod directs with music direction by Diana Lawrence.

“I thought it was a very cool match for the Music Theatre Company,” said Artistic Director and Highland Park native Jessica Redish. “Our mission is to look at new works to expand the canon of musical theater. We like to champion new voices in musical theater and Chris and Nathan are definitely part of the new generation of exciting writers.”

The five characters who interweave their stories through the show’s songs include a jilted former cheerleader, a pair of Patty Hearst fanatics, a stoner forced to rob a convenience store and an unhappy Subway employee. “It’s a bunch of interesting characters who express themselves through music and song,” Redish said. “I’m really excited to share this musical with our community.”

“Probably about 10 years ago, Nathan and I had the notion that we wanted to write something that was sort of an informal thing where people got together and sang songs to each other based on a similar theme — that theme being people literally and figuratively running away from things,” composer Miller said.

Several years later, they discovered that a number of songs they had written for projects that didn’t come to fruition fit that category.

“We ended up writing a couple of new things, creating an opening number and a closing number and changing things around to make it work as a through-line for the show,” Miller related.

Lyricist Tysen explained that, because the show is a song cycle, “To have a very specific character that goes through a very specific journey is difficult because the songs are disparate. We had to focus on a specific challenge, objective, goal that, throughout the story, a character can represent. Through his journey of songs, they can go after that goal.”

The show jumps around in time, Tysen noted. “We’re singing about Patty Hearst. We’re singing about a Subway sandwich employee from 2000. There are songs that feel very folky-Americana-turn of the century and then stuff that feels very present day.

“Having said that,” Tysen added, “I do believe that there is a musical glue and a musical language to the show that makes it all feel like one piece.”

Miller described the music as “a combination of pop, modern folk and Americana music with some musical theater thrown in.”

The first production was March 2008 at the Off-Broadway 45th Street Theatre. Following that, the show was produced in St. Louis and Las Vegas, as well as at Carnegie Mellon University.

Miller and Tysen met in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at New York University 13 years ago. They have been collaborating ever since, producing five shows. Their newest show, “Tuck Everlasting the Musical,” will open on Broadway in July.

A CD of Broadway artists singing “Fugitive Songs” will be available for purchase at the performances. “People can take a piece of it home and get excited about these new writers,” Redish said.

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