Encores! revives the late Elizabeth Swados' musical about the lives and challenges of runaway children. More…
In 1977, Elizabeth Swados spent several months observing and interviewing teen runaways before shaping their stories, fears, and fantasies into a musical. A deeply unconventional work in its day, 'Runaways' feels like the funkiest, most heartbreaking mixtape ever to come out of a 1970s boom box, packed with reggae anthems, hip-hop, soul-food lullabies, and spoken-word poetry. Cast largely with NYC students, this production of 'Runaways' honors the crowning achievement of a theater visionary who was ferocious, inspiring, and left us far too soon. Part of Encores! Off-Center season.
"A superb remounting…As relevant and gut-grabbing as when first performed nearly 40 years ago…A pulsating testimony to Swados's genius as both a musician and a documentarian of the human condition...The range of the show’s music is equally astounding…All of it is excitingly rendered with gusto and emotional depth…The show is also surprisingly exhilarating...While 'Runaways' was slated for only five performances, it exudes enough energy to fuel a run that could stretch into years." Full Review
"Part social commentary, part devastating drama, part comedy, part musical entertainment, and a riveting platform to showcase a group of extremely talented young performers...Each story builds to tell a harrowing description of abuse, neglect or violence that explained why the teen chose to run away from home...It is non-linear, with no defining plot, but it was an involving, emotionally charged, heart-wrenching and ultimately uplifting, cathartic experience." Full Review
“Somehow, ‘Runaways’ is not depressing, which it could have been in lesser hands. In fact, it’s enthralling - a fast and furious, poignant and disturbing 80 minutes. The pop-oriented songs are also pretty memorable...The production is directed by Sam Pinkleton with the utmost simplicity...Choreographer Ani Taj lends wild, seemingly spontaneous movement that reflects the characters’ heightened emotional states.” Full Review
“Presenting a work that is so much a product of its time more than 30 years later isn't an easy task...But under the exciting direction of Pinkleton and with head-banging choreography by Ani Taj, those fears are banished in the first 30 seconds…As for the material itself, it is still startlingly relevant, with an exciting score and fascinating script that are still unparalleled in their truthfulness.” Full Review
“Salsa, reggae, pop-rock tunes, chanting, and accompanied monologues fill the theater without hurting one’s ears…Next to nothing about this piece feels dated. Director Sam Pinkleton manages a stage swarming with actors who sit, stand, lie, dance, sing, fight and sign in small groups as well as company numbers without, miraculously, ever getting messy...The wonderful cast is almost all without stage-kid consciousness. Dramatization is dynamic and credible.” Full Review
“This blast of undiluted teen spirit is guaranteed to leave you feeling windblown, hyped up and ready to race through the most torpid summer night...While Mr. Pinkleton allows each cast member to emerge as an individual, he also knows that his performing team’s strength is in its union...The show could benefit from a little more variety in tone. As it is, every other number feels like a rousing finale. But how are you going to keep a lid on a cast with this much natural talent and vigor?” Full Review
“That one doesn’t walk out of the theater despondent is thanks not just to Swados’ canny use of rock, folk, and anthemic music, but even more so to the highly energetic direction of Sam Pinkleton, the freewheeling yet disciplined choreography of Ani Taj, and above all, the spirit of 25 young performers who deliver 80 minutes of passion and commitment...Even more now than then, it feels like the slightly misshapen love child of the Public’s biggest hits, 'Hair' and 'A Chorus Line'." Full Review
"Some of the segments are weak, and too many of them follow a predictable arc...There is relief in the boisterous, full-cast uptempo numbers...Though the events related in the stories have the ring of sad authenticity about them, the casting of young actors to tell them sometimes does not...This doesn’t seem to matter; the cast is so talented and, under the compelling direction of Pinkleton, so focused that it mostly blows the presentational questions out of the water.” Full Review
"Even though 'Runaways' only takes up 80 minutes, Swados herself appears to run out of fresh comments to make...What Swados had going for her then, though, and what director Sam Pinkleton and choreographer Ani Taj have now are young performers bringing 'Runaways' to exuberant life...There is no way to overestimate the contribution these on-stage runaways are offering the audience...While depicting runaways, they do an admirable job of running away with Swados’s show." Full Review
"The musical holds up surprisingly well even in this gentrified presentation...The stirring score is still the best thing about 'Runaways'...For all the energy harnessed in the lively staging, the show never feels as profound as it was intended to be. It mainly comes across as a period piece...Then again, all you have to do is hang around at the Port Authority Bus Terminal for a few hours to recognize that the musical's themes have sadly not been rendered irrelevant.” Full Review
"I think most of the people carrying on about how amazing 'Runaways' is are really saying that the original production was groundbreaking, and that they like being able to revisit it. Without taking anything away from the work the young actors are doing, this didn't strike me as revelatory...To be sure, there are plenty of moving, poignant moments in it...But when the curtain came down and I left the theatre, 'Runaways' didn't stay with me." Full Review
“The writing is neither captivating nor distinguished; Fenwick's nine-piece band sizzles, but Pinkleton's direction and Ani Taj's reluctant-feeling choreography fall short of its electric ideal; and this particular cast, though energetic, is only intermittently up to the material's largely modest demands...‘Runaways’, unlike its subjects but like its audiences then and now, doesn't live on the streets - it just wants to visit.” Full Review
See it if Amazing youthful actors singing & dancing their brains out in your thing. Songs that captured a generation years ago & still holds true.
Don't see it if You hate musicals with kids in it. Child abuse and issues about homelessness tear your heart out.
See it if you want to see a unique piece of theatre that perfectly captures the pain of these young runaways. Extremely powerful and emotional.
Don't see it if You don't like experimental musical theatre. If you need a clear plot-line. If you're triggered by graphic descriptions of abuse.
See it if You love raucous, passionate theatre. This was a production for the ages - incredible, talented young performers.
Don't see it if You need a traditional, old-school musical to make you happy. Or if you don't like "Hair" (lot of similarities).
See it if you love musicals, particularly ones with a strong socially conscious message, if you love the works of Liz Swados or enjoy shows with kids.
Don't see it if you hate musicals, hate shows with kids in them, are confused by unsupertitled Spanish at moments, or only like fluffy escapist musicals.
Also A beautiful rocking tribute to the late great Liz Swados!
See it if You are looking for a show that makes you think and reflect. It is very moving and really well done.
Don't see it if You are not a fan of urban music. Or if you get offended easily.
See it if enjoy great singing, especially as ensemble. Joyous performances with high energy and feeling of sincere pleasure in performing.
Don't see it if you like shows with clear sense of plot rather than vignettes. Many cliches though that doesn't invalidate the feelings behind them.
See it if you enjoy young, talented performers giving their heart and soul to a visceral piece of theater by Liz Swados. Rap, salsa, country, blues...
Don't see it if you don't have any interest in the raw and emotional stories of the lives of runaways. It's a musical collage; not your typical musical.
See it if you have a sense of musical theatre history. And if you love the specific energy and kids and teens. And if you like creative storytelling.
Don't see it if I can't think of a single reason not to. It's amazing that we are getting to see a full product of this ground breaking show.
See it if you enjoy ensemble pieces like big singing and dancing numbers like coming of age stories of people exploring and finding out who they are
Don't see it if you are looking for a musical story with character development and plot. This is a snapshot with insight in the lives of troubled youths.
See it if a short run of a way-too-unheralded musical from a distinctive writer with an up-n-coming cast & director is enuf to make you leave yr home.
Don't see it if you want a story & characters you can follow. I wish the talented performers had more edge but given the 2 wk prep, they're all impressive.
See it if Hair & Chorus Line had a baby and that teenager ran away with the Partridge family. It was fun 90min. Full of heart & recognizable melodies.
Don't see it if You need a plot & don't appreciate vignettes strung together to form something of a whole.
See it if you missed the original, want to see a much better musical and pre-cursor to Rent, appreciate emotionally challenging content, like teens.
Don't see it if you want an easy, fluffy musical experience.
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