Saturday, July 30, 2016

To Elizabeth

Runaways debuted in New York in 1978,
with a score that used reggae, hip-hop, soul music 
and spoken-word poetry. 
Elizabeth Swados (age 27!) gathered runaways from community
centers in NYC and New Jersey,
and a la A Chorus Line,
wove their stories together.
Long before Hamilton,
Elizabeth chose a multi-racial cast, 
with most making their Broadway debuts,
and produced it under the auspices of Joseph Papp 
and the Public Theatre. 
Elizabeth, above on the left,
wrote the music, lyrics, and book,
basing it on all the interviews she did with her "runaways."
It opened at the Public in 1978,
moved to Broadway 3 months later...
Elizabeth received 4 Tony nominations,
(Score, Book, Direction, Choreography)
but received none. 

After this breakout musical,
Elizabeth turned to writing novels and children's books
and satirical, often political musical theatre,
including Doonesbury and Rap Master Ronnie.
In 1991 she was quoted:
“Broadway is a museum that’s not moving forward,
 and musical theater should reflect what and how we are now 
— our pop culture, our political situation.”
She died just this past January.

A revival produced by Encores! played earlier this month
(July 2016) at City Center.
Theatre God, Ben Brantley loved it...
"They’re tearing up the air at New York City Center, where a pulsing reincarnation of Elizabeth Swados’ Runaways is guaranteed to leave you... ready to race through the most torpid summer night.”
But gotta say, these "kids" look too pretty
to be runaways. 

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