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Runners In A Dream
a musical about a little girl & the Holocaust
Runners in a Dream logo
Runners In A Dream

Runners In A Dream is musical drama set in the magical and poignant dreamworld of a girl as she tries to escape the horrors of WWII. Based on a true story of courage and transcendence, this beautiful and buoyant musical follows Ilse Steltzer as she hides from the Nazis and survives the work camps.

As a child, Ilse uses her incredible imagination to escape an unacceptable reality. What to do but call upon heroes who remind us of beauty, or our own worthiness? If we can’t find the Promised Land in our own lives, can we borrow it from the pages of others?

Ilse is visited by imaginary friends and literary heroes that jump off the pages of her precious books. Perhaps the likes of Harriet Tubman and Moses can coax Ilse to "run" from memory and sorrow, toward escape and possibility.

As one reviewer stated, “In an age of adaptations and revivals, I find that this completely original work makes a bold and beautiful entrance onto the NY stage. Unlike any Holocaust story ever presented before, RUNNERS IN A DREAM is a delicate dance blending the heart of The Diary of Ann Frank, The Wizard of Oz, The Secret Garden and Brigadoon.”

The script of Runners In A Dream has gone through many revisions. For a copy of the script, please message Tobin via the contact page.

The Music

Below are draft recordings of songs performed by the composer and some of the original cast members. They were not meant for listening to by others, but were meant only for rehearsal purposes. In most songs, lyrics and passages were changed before the actual performances on stage, so what you hear is a mere outline of what the music has become. But, I hope, you get the idea...

ACT I:
Play button 1 Up Here [The Boy/Ilse]
Play button 2 Someone Else's Sky [Ilse]
Play button 3 Who Would've Thought [Moses/ Harriet]
Play button 4 Wind At My Back [Ilse/Mother]
Play button 5 The Letter [Ilse/Mother]
Play button 6 In Just Moments [Moses]
Play button 7 Never So Frightened [Ilse]
Play button 8 Runners [The Boy/Moses/Harriet/Ilse]
ACT II:
Play button 9 Let Yourself Dream [The Boy]
Play button 10 A Very Nice Place [Ilse]
Play button 11 What Lesson? [Amichai]
Play button 12 When's It Due? [Amichai/Marianna]
Play button 13 I'd Say - part 1 [Opi/Ilse/Amichai]
Play button 14 I'd Say - part 2 [Opi/Ilse/Amichai/Mother]
Play button 15 Instead Of Miracles [The Doctor]
Play button 16 The Chimney (spoken) [Amichai]
Play button 17 Let Yourself Dream - reprise [The Boy]
Play button 18 Was There Once A Time [Mother/The Boy/Opi/Ilse]
Play button 19 Runners - reprise/finale [full cast]
UNUSED SONGS:
Play button 20 I Can’t Sleep
Play button 21 I Won’t Leave You (sung by composer)
Play button 22 I Won’t Leave You (alternative key)
Play button 23 I Won’t Leave You - reprise (sung by composer)
Play button 24 I Won’t Leave You - finale (sung by cast)
Synopsis

Act One takes place both in Ilse’s dreams and in the basement where she and her infant sister are hiding, under the care of her elderly grandfather, Opi, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. They have hidden in this basement for over two years in a vain attempt to escape the deadly reach of the Holocaust. Opi tries to fill the role of Ilse’s parents, who have been taken away, but he is getting too old; and Ilse’s infant sister, Hilde, is growing desperately sick...

Although Opi tries to engage Ilse with childish games and attempts to keep her focused on her responsibilities, especially to her infant sister, Ilse prefers to read and dream, frequently escaping into her imagination. As Act One progresses, Ilse becomes less able to discern the line between dreams and reality, eventually joining her imaginary friends as they become runners in a dream, runners who, in order to survive psychologically, must help Ilse escape the very real horrors that threaten to engulf her.

Ilse draws on three main imaginary characters: the literary heroes of the Biblical Moses and the American slave Harriet Tubman brought to life from the pages of the books she reads; and a sprite-like imaginary friend, The Boy, who writes down all of Ilse’s stories into his omnipresent journal. Can she find the Promised Land in one of their stories if she can’t find it within her own? Moses and Harriet are a dual conscience, with Moses calling on Ilse to deal with reality in a straight forward manner and Harriet playfully looking for ways to be free. But Ilse’s true moments of peace come when she is visited by The Boy. He helps her cope with the tragedies of Act One, most notably the death of her sister and her ultimate capture by the Gestapo, by helping her create visually stunning star fields and magical gardens, helping her find the courage to dream.

Act Two takes place mainly in Terrezin Stadt, a concentration work camp, although Ilse, in an altered state, seems to see everything around her as a holiday camp. Finally able to be with other girls, she revels in her new surroundings.

The near pathological buoyancy and vigor with which she embraces each experience at first annoys and then inspires those she meets. In this Act, Ilse’s main allies are played by the actors who portrayed dream people in Act One: Moses is now a learned teacher, Amichai, trying to avoid the bitterness and cynicism of his confinement. As his favorite “student,” Ilse rekindles in him hope and meaningfulness. Harriet Tubman is now a girl of sixteen, Marianna, a jaded and withdrawn victim who has been raped by the camp doctor. Ilse helps her find her inner beauty (Ilse sees her as the “dark skinned” Harriet) and convinces her to embrace the coming birth of her child. The Boy has a brief cameo as a farm boy from a neighboring village who has come to share turnips with the girl on the other side of the fence.

Ilse believes a whimsical picnic, which brings together her new and old friends in the courtyard of the camp, can hold back the tide of tragedy the Holocaust imposes. It cannot. In fact, Ilse’s imaginary picnic bonfire suddenly transforms into the all too real flames around which the most horrific scene unfolds (in a theatrical, tempered way). At this moment, when the fiction of imagination can no longer be sustained, the entire story is dramatically exposed as a memory. In a profound moment of revelation, akin to what is happening at this very moment to our main character, we realize we are witnessing the suppressed recollections of a woman who is able, for thee first time (and, perhaps, against her will) to remember her past. Every detail.

This woman, of course, is Ilse.

The Boy, that magical sprite with journal in hand, is revealed as adult Ilse’s son. He asks questions upon questions until everything comes flooding back.

The adult Ilse has repressed these events for her entire life. As she remembers, all the feelings she has suppressed become real. But what Ilse feels most is guilt: she survived and others did not.

In the final scene, The Boy must communicate to his mother, the adult Ilse, how important it is that she has survived, how proud she should be of herself, and how moved

he has been by her story. In the middle of the conversation, he turns back to the fallen child, back to the memory, and sings one final reprise about the power of dreams, the power of remembering. Then, significantly, he returns to his mother. The moment is the first moment of her healing, as she cherishes her son and begins to accept how blessed she is to have survived.

Tobin's Solo Piano Collection
Of Two Minds cover
Of Two Minds: The Music of Frédéric Chopin and Tobin Mueller is the final addition to Mueller's "Masterworks Trilogy" in which he explores the intersections of classical and jazz piano. Mueller reinterprets Chopin's most iconic piano solos (Disc 1) and uses the preludes to inspire three original jazz piano sonatas (Disc 2). Seductive, rebellious, heroic and beautiful. Jazz influences include Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck, Keith Jarrett. "One would be hard-pressed to find an artist with a more creative musical mind than Tobin Mueller’s." Fanfare Magazine's 2016 Editor's Choice Award.
Flow cover
Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller is a double album featuring Mueller's reinterpretations of Bach's greatest hits (Disc 1) plus two original jazz piano suites by Mueller (Disc 2). Inventive, playful, joyous, beautiful, full of emotion and intelligence. Mueller embraces the sense of timelessness one achieves when in the state of flow, bridging the centuries, letting Bach's 300 year old manuscripts inspire through new expression. Jazz influences include Brad Mehldau, Fred Hersch, Gerald Clayton. "This may be the pianist-composer’s most ambitious and sophisticated recording. Highly recommended." Fanfare Magazine's 2015 Editor's Choice Award.
Impressions of Water and Light cover
Impressions of Water & Light is an exploration of the cross-inspirations between Impressionist and jazz piano, including adaptations of music by Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Satie, Ibert and Carpenter. Tobin uses the written notes as if they are light and his imagination as if it is water, creating all new interpretations. This post-Impressionist music illustrates the intimacy between jazz and Impressionist music. You will never hear these works the same again. The gorgeous CD booklet is a work of art in itself, pairing an Impressionist painting with each piece. One of the three album in Mueller's "Masterworks Trilogy".
Impressions of Water and Light cover
Midwinter Born is a collection of jazz piano interpretations of traditional Christmas carols. Mueller captures the quiet simplicity, expectant playfulness and over-riding joy of the season. A delightful and sometimes surprising album destined to become one of your annual holiday favorites. The 18 track album includes: First Noel, Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Holy Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells, Lo How A Rose E'er Bloom, Good King Wenceslas, Still, Still, Still and many more.
Morning Whispers cover
Morning Whispers is Tobin's first solo piano collection, a song cycle of tragic beauty. Music of healing and introspection. The use of key changes, unusual time signatures, and other variational devices makes this work involving, not merely New Age background music. Its gentle intensity, however, does not detract from its healing essence, its sense of inner joy. Influences include Aaron Copland, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, David Lanz, Liz Story. Several of these piano pieces have since been used in film and documentaries.
13 Masks cover
13 Masks is Tobin's second solo piano collection. An exploration of the links between avant-garde 20th Century music and jazz. Tobin used illustrations of 13 medieval masks to inspire songs combining ragtime, jazz and 20th Century avant-garde classical. Influences include Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Art Tatum, Scott Joplin, John Medeski, as well as classical composers Shostakovich, Ligeti, Bartok. These pieces will startle and delight. "A truly unique album with music to really sink your teeth into."
Afterwords cover
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new musical compositions. He pays homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Faulkner, as well as new authors Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville. Musical influences include Oscar Peterson, Hiromi, Brad Maldheu, Fred Hersch, John Taylor, even Keith Emerson. "An astonishing work of art."
Afterwords: Bonus Tracks cover
Afterwords: Solo Piano Bonus Tracks - For those of you who prefer music without any interruptions, seven of the best tracks from Afterwords have been remastered with the talking edited out. Originally conceived for distribution to jazz radio stations, this Bonus Album is now avaiilable to the egeneral public. Influences include Oscar Peterson, Hiromi, Brad Maldheu, Fred Hersch, John Taylor; post-bop, stride, new age, classic jazz.
Tobin's Other CD Collections
Tobin's Jazz Collection
JAZZ ENSEMBLE
Come In Funky cover
Come In Funky Old School Funk and and small combo Jazz featuring legendary bassist Ron Carter. "You guys can play! These are, almost without exception, very complicated numbers in terms of rhythm and the general sync of solos with ensemble playing, a stellar set of recordings that, I believe, adds seriously to the body of jazz that this represents. A remarkable work in every single way I can think of. This is such a bright and happy album that is played with a spirit of invention and joy from the first notes to the last." - Paul Page
The Muller's Wheel cover
The Muller's Wheel is a collaborative project combining the talents of pianist Tobin Mueller and saxophonist Woody Mankowski, featuring their jazz quartet and their larger 8-pieace ensemble, playing swing to bop to fusion to funk. The styles of Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Herbie Hancock, The Brecker Brothers, Weather Report and more influence this homage to the jazz greats. This is joyous music. "It reminds us of the happiness we relive when returning to our musical roots," say Mueller and Mankowski.
Rain Bather cover
Rain Bather is an 80 minute long play CD featuring superlative solo performances by all-star band members. Most of the tunes are in the jazz-funk-fusion vein, but many others try to break new ground, defying easy labels. Tobin Mueller - B3 organ, synth; Woody Mankowski - soprano sax; Chris Mueller - acoustic piano; Jeff Cox - acoustic bass; Dane Richeson - drums; Tom Washatka - tenor sax; Doug Schnieder - tenor sax; Ken Schaphorst - flugelhorn; Bob Levy - trumpet; Sal Giorgianni - flute; Bill Barner - clarinet.
SOLO PIANO JAZZ
Afterwords cover
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new musical compositions. He pays homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Faulkner, as well as new authors Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville. Musical influences include Oscar Peterson, Hiromi, Brad Maldheu, Fred Hersch, John Taylor, even Keith Emerson. "An astonishing work of art."
Of Two Minds cover
Of Two Minds: The Music of Frédéric Chopin and Tobin Mueller, especially Disc 2 - Tobin plays Tobin. Three original jazz piano sonatas make up Disc 2. Each shows Chopin influences, but draws more from contemporaries Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck and Keith Jarrett. "One would be hard-pressed to find an artist with a more creative musical mind than Tobin Mueller’s - especially one with the playing chops to fulfill his or her vision." Fanfare Magazine's 2016 Editor's Choice Award.
Flow cover
Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller, especially Disc 2 - Tobin plays Tobin. Two post-bop jazz piano suites make up Disc 2. Each shows Bach influences, but draws more from contemporaries Brad Mehldau, Fred Hersch and Gerald Clayton. "This may be the pianist-composer’s most ambitious and sophisticated recording project to date... a journey that inevitably explores the interactions of Baroque and jazz." Fanfare Magazine's 2015 Editor's Choice Award.
Impressions of Water and Light cover
Impressions of Water and Light is an exploration of the cross-inspirations between Impressionist and contemporary jazz piano, including adaptations of music by Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Satie, Ibert and Carpenter. "The listener has the sense that Mueller is having his personal conversation as a composer and pianist with these great 19th- and 20th-century composers." This is third album of "The Masterworks Trilogy" which includes Flow and Of Two Minds.
Impressions of Water and Light cover
Midwinter Born is a collection of jazz piano interpretations of traditional Christmas carols. Mueller captures the quiet simplicity, expectant playfulness and over-riding joy of the season. The 18 track album includes: First Noel, Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Holy Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells, Lo How A Rose E'er Bloom, Good King Wenceslas, Still, Still, Still and many more.
Morning Whispers cover
Morning Whispers is Tobin's first solo piano collection, a song cycle of tragic beauty. Music of healing and introspection, these New Age and Neo-Classical pieces do more than evoke emotion: they tell stories. Influences include Aaron Copland, Bill Evans, David Lanz, Liz Story. Several of these piano pieces have since been used in film and documentaries.
13 Masks cover
13 Masks is Tobin's second solo piano collection. An exploration of the links between avant-garde 20th Century music and jazz, influences include Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Art Tatum, John Medeski, as well as classical composers Shostakovich, Ligeti, Bartok. "A truly unique album with music to really sink your teeth into."
Afterwords: Bonus Tracks cover
Afterwords: Solo Piano Bonus Tracks - For those of you who prefer music without any interruptions, seven of the best tracks from Afterwords have been remastered with the talking edited out. Originally conceived for distribution to jazz radio stations, this Bonus Album is now avaiilable to the egeneral public. Influences include Oscar Peterson, Hiromi, Brad Maldheu, Fred Hersch, John Taylor; post-bop, stride, new age, classic jazz.
Tobin's Rock Collection
Progressive Rock
Audiocracy cover
AUDIOCRACY is an international progressive rock collective. Their poetic writing and virtuosic performances make their high energy music life-affirming and uplifting, even considering the apocalyptic nature of their first release. Revolution's Son has been called "a masterpiece in the Epic Prog tradition." Progressive Magazine gave it 4 out 5 stars. Th story follows a revolutionary who comes to The City to be a catalyst for change and a prophet of truth. He falls into an Underground that urges a less innocent approach to change, leading to a post-apocalyptic finish. High energy, impressionistic prog.
Alternative Rock
A Bit of Light cover
A Bit of Light - A progressive folk / cross-genre collection of songs Tobin's been accumulating for a decade, A Bit of Light includes some of his favorite collaborations with saxophonists, fiddle players and guitarists, mixing jazz, bluegrass, tango and folk-rock. World renown violinist Entcho Todorov, Grammy winner saxophonist Danny McCaslin and L.A.'s Woody Mankowski, Enlish fiddler player Martyn Kember-Smith and guitarist John Luper provide fabulous highlights. The CD comes with a digital booklet in PDF format.
If I Live Long Enough cover
If I Could Live Long Enough - Previously unreleased outtakes from earlier projects, including the 1998-1999 Rain Bather sessions, the 2004-2006 MacJams collaborations, and selected songs from two of Mueller's musicals: Creature and Runners In A Dream. Featuring acoustic guitar by Grammy winner Michael Hedges, vocals by Woody Mankowski and Emily Rohm, and some of Mueller's best songwriting. Six free Bonus Tracks available here.
September 11 Project
September 11 Project cover
September 11 Project: Ten Years Later - Music written following 9/11/2001. Tobin was asked to participate in the 10th anniversary at Ground Zero ceremony and revisted these songs. He decided to put them out as an album instead of keep them to myself. Since he was unable to sing at the event, after contracting a lung disorder, this music gained layers of poignancy. Recorded in the months following the tragedy.
Tobin's Standards Collection
Song Of Myself cover
Song Of Myself - Tobin's favorite songs from The American Songbook, reinterpretted. Intimate, heartfelt, devistatingly honest music. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Song of Myself page. Ballads, blues, showtunes, folk rock, jazz - the music of Tobin's roots. These are songs he's song for decades, arrangements that have evolved and matured with him.

"American Tune" by Paul Simon. "Blackbird" by Paul McCartney. Bob Dylan's "Dignity." A Joni Mitchell and an Elton John medly. "Being Alive" from Company (Stephen Sondheim). "Impossible Dream" from Man of la Mancha. "Oh Danny Boy." "Frozen Man" by James Taylor. Many more, plus two original songs by Tobin Mueller.
Hard Place To Find cover
Hard Place To Find - Tobin has released a second volume of his favorite songs from The American Songbook. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Hard Place To Find project page. "Still Crazy" by Paul Simon. Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm" and "Bob Dylan's Dream." Richie Haven's "Paradise." "Dulcinea" from Man of la Mancha. "Alfie" by Bacharach. "Somewhere" from West Side Story. Many more, plus one original song by Tobin Mueller. All songs have to do with journeying, questing, searching. Released June 2nd, 2013.

"Tobin Mueller is something of a Renaissance man of the arts, and 'Hard Place To Find' presents another volume in his prolific and impressive output. More of an art-music album than a pop release, I recommend it if you are looking for something different and deeply personal!" - Kathy Parsons, Mainly Piano
A Bit of Light cover
A Bit of Light - A progressive folk / cross-genre collection of songs featuring Mueller's vocals and a long list of his best friends and collaborators, including world renown violinist Entcho Todorov, Grammy winner saxophonist Danny McCaslin, L.A. saxophonist Woody Mankowski, English fiddler player Martyn Kember-Smith and Texan guitarist John Luper provide fabulous highlights. The music melds jazz, bluegrass, tango and folk-rock. The CD comes with a digital booklet in PDF format.
If I Live Long Enough cover
If I Could Live Long Enough - Previously unreleased outtakes from earlier projects, including the 1998-1999 Rain Bather sessions, the 2004-2006 MacJams collaborations, and selected songs from two of Mueller's musicals - Creature and Runners In A Dream. Featuring acoustic guitar by Grammy winner Michael Hedges, vocals by Woody Mankowski and Emily Rohm, and some of Mueller's best songwriting. 6 free Bonus Tracks available here.
September 11 Project cover
September 11 Project: Ten Years Later - Music written following 9/11/2001. Tobin was asked to participate in the 10th anniversary at Ground Zero ceremony and revisted these songs. He decided to put them out as an album instead of keep them to myself. Since he was unable to sing at the event, after contracting a lung disorder, this music gained layers of poignancy. Recorded in the months following the tragedy.
Poetry / Spoken Word
As Simple As Soap cover
As Simple As Soap - Del lends his deep voice and unique personality to Tobin's award-winning poetry. Love, fatherhood, history, death and daily meanings are all touch on in this combination of poetry and short story offerings. Each spoken word selection is accompanied by Mueller's visually stimulating background music that adds great emotional depth. The force and color of Del's voice earns this collection a high recommendation; the breathtaking and varied accompaniments make this a truly fascinating addition to Tobin Mueller's collected works.
Afterwords cover
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new musical compositions. Paying homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut and Faulkner, as well as contemporary authors such as Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville, Mueller spins musical stories that will make you consider each book in a new light. Every track is a musical meditation, guided by entertaining and insightful quotations. The 17 tracks combine to represent the true breadth of his musical influences and accumulated experiences.