Review: Fugitive Songs (BoHo Theatre)

| March 12, 2016

Julian Terrell Otis in Fugitive Songs, BoHo Theatre          

Fugitive Songs

By Chris Miller (music)
   and Nathan Tysen (lyrics)
Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood (map)
thru Mar 13  |  tix: $25   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Short, sweet and well sung


Justin Adair, Elissa Newcorn, Julian Terrell Otis, Demi Zaino and Greg Foster in Fugitive Songs

BoHo Theatre presents
Fugitive Songs

Review by Lauren Whalen 

“Everybody’s running from something” proclaim the press materials for Fugitive Songs. While the title connotes criminals on the run, Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen’s song cycle, which enjoyed its New York debut in 2012, encompasses everyone from peaceable stoners to inquisitive retail clerks to teenage Patty Hearst fanatics. The individual tracks in Fugitive Songs range from thought-provoking to forgettable, but as a musical one-act, it’s a pleasant way to spend part of one’s evening. BoHo Theatre’s production is short but sweet, thanks to excellent staging, music direction and production values, and a six-person ensemble who are mostly very gifted.

Charlotte Morris, Elissa Newcorn and Demi Zaino in Fugitive Songs, BoHo TheatreThere’s no dialogue in the 75-minute production, only songs featuring different characters on the run from some aspect of life. A disgruntled Subway “sandwich artist” laments his minimum wage and lost dreams in West Virginia, while in New York, a charismatic subway rider tries to entice women to get him the hell out of Harlem. A young woman makes a special connection with an ancient oak tree, and a spoiled young woman peaces out on her own sweet sixteen after a boyfriend’s abandonment. Some of these musical monologues are lighthearted and loud, others serious and quiet. An occasional duet or group number keeps things interesting, and the action is fast-paced and often funny. Ultimately, one can’t run forever, and Fugitive Songs is as much about looking back as it is about looking forward into an unknown future.

Director Zachary L. Gray keeps the staging simple but compelling, incorporating seamless interaction and transitions, as well as playful choreography for some of the lighter songs. Never does a performer just stand there and sing – he or she interacts with props, with scenery, with fellow performers. Gray’s thoughtful staging is lovingly coupled with Jeffrey Poindexter’s music direction. The latter also incorporates the cast’s many talents, including Justin Adair’s impressive guitar skills and Charlotte Morris’ beautiful violin accompaniment. Composer Miller’s harmonies do get a bit bombastic at times, and during certain moments the ensemble seems to forget they are in a tiny theater rather than a large auditorium, but for the most part, Fugitive Songsscore is highly enjoyable and often powerful.

Charlotte Morris and Justin Adair in Fugitive Songs, BoHo Theatre Demi Zaino, Greg Foster and Elissa Newcorn in Fugitive Songs, BoHo TheatreJulian Terrell Otis, Demi Zaino and Charlotte Morris in Fugitive Songs, BoHo Theatre Elissa Newcorn and Justin Adair in Fugitive Songs, BoHo TheatreGreg Foster in Fugitive Songs, BoHo Theatre Justin Adair in Charlotte Morris in Fugitive Songs, BoHo TheatreElissa Newcorn and Charlotte Morris in Fugitive Songs at BoHo Theatre Justin Adair, Elissa Newcorn, Julian Terrell Otis and Demi Zaino in Fugitive Songs, BoHo Theatre 

Tony Churchill’s scenic design becomes another character in the show, so beautifully prevalent it is. Churchill has designed an intricate “shelf” of suitcases, multiple levels for the actors to play on, the oak tree that figures so heavily into one song and map-like paintings on the two surrounding walls. Churchill maximizes the studio space, bringing to mind the vast possibilities of the open road, the subway train and the mountains and plains. Fugitive Songssix cast members are playful and game, incorporating complex emotions into every piece. (Only Morris seems a little out of place with her nasal vocals and one-note interpretations.) Greg Foster is hilarious as a stoner who finds himself witnessing a convenience store robbery, Elissa Newcorn shines as a wide-eyed college freshman and a disillusioned fiancée, and Demi Zaino’s soaring vocals and bright personality make her a standout. Julian Otis excels as well in both his solo and group work.

Shows like Fugitive Songs are a living, breathing reminder that everyone has a story worth telling. Each song is a self-contained jewel, with the facets and messiness of humanity. BoHo Theatre’s production won’t change your life, but does hold its own during Chicago busy theater season. Perhaps after viewing Fugitive Songs, you’ll feel a strong desire to feel the wind in your hair, crank up the stereo and get the hell out of Dodge.

Rating: ★★★

Fugitive Songs continues through March 13th at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets are $25, and are available by phone (866-811-4111) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 75 minutes, no intermission)’’

Elissa Newcorn, Demi Zaino, Julian Terrell Otis and Charlotte Morris in Fugitive Songs, BoHo Theatre

Photos by Amy Boyle Photography




Justin Adair, Greg Foster, Charlotte Morris, Elissa Newcorn, Julian Otis, Demi Zaino


Jeffrey Poindexter (music director, keyboard), Charlotte Morris (violin), Justin Akira Kono (percussion), Justin Adair (guitar)

behind the scenes

Zachary L. Gray (director), Jeffrey Poindexter (music director), Meg Love (producer), Stephen Schellhardt (assistant director), Tony Churchill (scenic design), John Jacobsen (lighting design), Emma Cullimore (costume design), Lindsay Brown (stage manager), Amy Boyle (photography)


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Category: 2016 Reviews, Bohemian Theatre, Heartland Studio Theatre, Lauren Whalen, Musical, Video, YouTube

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