Members say: Thought-provoking, Entertaining, Ambitious, Dated, Edgy

About the show

Encores! revives the late Elizabeth Swados' musical about the lives and challenges of runaway children.

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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.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

“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

The Hollywood Reporter

"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


“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

New York Magazine / Vulture

"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

AM New York

“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

The Huffington Post

"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

Talkin' Broadway

“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

Theater Pizzazz

“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

Woman Around Town

“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

Musical Theater Review

"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

Reviewing The Drama

"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


"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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Ambitious, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow, Dated

See it if You like shows about teenagers.

Don't see it if You like more uplifting musicals.

Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated, Slow

See it if you love musical theater and missed previous productions.

Don't see it if you enjoy character development and plot. Just because it's based on real life doesn't make it real or engaging. Don't like cliches? Skip it

Ambitious, Intelligent, Profound, Dated, Great singing

See it if you want to further familiarize yourself with the work of Liz Swados, and/or witness some amazing kid talent

Don't see it if You want adults as your protagonists

Thought-provoking, Talented kids

See it if you like politically motivated musicals that deal with serious social issues and you like to see a talented ensemble of young performers

Don't see it if you were hoping for a full-scale production or polished performances. This is a very raw production.

Original, Edgy, Intelligent, Interesting, Crowded

See it if you're a fan of Elizabeth Swados or find the topic of teenage runaways interesting.

Don't see it if you have trouble figuring out where to look when there are too many people on stage.

Original, Quirky, Relevant, Slow, Dated

See it if you connect to the oddball musicals that are under performed. It feels much like a song cycle, with vignettes that run through it.

Don't see it if you're craving a clear story. While I was interested in the characters, I didn't get to know any of them as the moments were not connected.

Funny, Clever, Thought-provoking, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if it reopens. These kids were great and Liz would have been SO PROUD of them and director Sam Pinkleton.

Don't see it if you want to watch a new, polished piece of theater.

Original, Thought-provoking, Profound, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you want to be moved by a compelling piece of theatre that is sadly as relevant today as when it was written.

Don't see it if you're expecting a polished, perfect piece with a traditional narrative structure.

Edgy, Thought-provoking, Profound, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if you're looking for something edgy and relevant. Hits on the resonant reasons behind runaway youth. Some catchy songs; some not so much.

Don't see it if you're looking for a polished production. This production is very loose form and the notebooks give the impression lines aren't memorized...

Riveting, Energetic, Heartfelt, Festive, Ebullient

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).

Refreshing, Energetic, Strong performances

See it if A high energy evocation of the 1970s and the stories of homeless runaway teens.

Don't see it if You want a solely linear storyline.

Ambitious, Delightful, Great writing, Great singing, Upsetting

See it if you love hair and diverse, amazing, casts

Don't see it if You need a strong plot in your musicals

Clever, Edgy, Entertaining

See it if You like young talent and great writing.

Don't see it if Not a staged version, so just enjoy the music!

Funny, Delightful, Resonant, Entertaining, Great staging

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.

Original, Absorbing, Profound, Refreshing, Relevant

See it if you love an explosion of energy and human emotion.

Don't see it if you are a traditionalist who loves strict plot structure.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Indulgent, Confusing

See it if you enjoy stories about marginalized people who are fighting their way out of oppression but who can't seem to break free.

Don't see it if you like standard narratives that are linear and not shared in a somewhat chaotic way--even if interesting and relevant.

Thought-provoking, Cliched, Dated

See it if you enjoy shows about teenage angst, a large cast, and high energy

Don't see it if you care about plot, character development or memorable songs that stick with you

Ambitious, Dizzying, Dated, Great singing

See it if you want to see young performers really shine. I appreciated this more than loved it and recognize how groundbreaking it must have been.

Don't see it if you want a more traditional, plot-driven show,

Edgy, Raunchy, Disappointing

See it if you were a fan of the original and are looking for a trip down memory lane with a talented young cast, lead by a great creative team

Don't see it if you are expecting a great undiscovered musical. Runaways is nearly plotless and much of the music is unfortunately, very forgettable.

Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated, Dated

See it if you are interested in seeing how a once-popular musical has aged—and not for the better. Also, if you enjoy seeing an exuberant cast.

Don't see it if you like hearing the lyrics of a song (sound design is awful). Also, if you like shows with character development—this musical has none.

Nice tribute to recently-passed elizabeth swados in depicting desperation and fire of youth who end up on the street

See it if you appreciate high-energy musical portrayal of angst of youth, abandoned by parents, performed with passion

Don't see it if /since like Hair but w/o strong plot, like Chorus Line but w/o memorable songs/dancing, like Spring Awakening but w/o signature moments

Thought-provoking, Quirky, Inconsistent, Energetic, Young

See it if you like to young talent in the early stages of their careers.

Don't see it if you don't like a variety of musical styles i.e. reggae, pop, hiphop.

Original, Entertaining, Great music & performances

See it if enjoy watching a wonderfully talented young cast perform in a concert like setting.

Don't see it if you are looking for plot driven story.

Original, Dated, High energy, Great performances

See it if you enjoy experimental theater, talented younger actors, and catchy songs.

Don't see it if you only enjoy shows with solid plots.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Quirky, Relevant, Muddled

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.

Cast & Creatives (32)