Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.


Runaways – Vibrant !


Just ran away. I had to run away./My parents can hear, but I can’t,/and they blame me for that…(signed by a deaf actor )

Author Elizabeth Swados was in her mid twenties when, following on the heels of Hair and A Chorus Line, Runaways moved from The Public Theater to Broadway. Hair is affectionately (?) ridiculed in the piece as symptomatic of self indulgent baby boomers. Like A Chorus Line, Runaways was midwifed out of extensive confessional interviews – in this case, with homeless kids. It was an era of wildly innovative, experimental theater.               Kylie McNeill Runaways Encores! New York City Center Cast & Credits Book, Lyrics, and Music by Elizabeth Swados Choreography by Ani Taj Music Director Chris Fenwick Directed by Sam Pinkleton Starring Frenie Acoba, Sumaya Bouhbal, Kenneth Cabral, Maxwell Cabral, Taylor Caldwell, Sophia Anne Caruso, Xavier Casimir, Joshua DeJesus, Adleesa Edwards, Aidan Gemme, Reyna Guerra, Matthew Gumley, Christina Jimenez, Kylie McNeill, Cele Pahucki, Sam Poon, Siena Rafter, Claudia Ramirez, Ren, MJ Rodriguez, Deandre Sevon, Jeremy Shinder, Ripley Sobo, Chris Sumpter, and Maxwell Vice

Kylie McNeill

Eeny Meeny Gipsaleeny/Ooh Aah Combaleeny/Ooh, Mamacha cucaracha/COD… From up aisles and out of the wings, 25 young actors between the ages of 12 and 19 commandeer the stage as if they were squatters gathering, not unsuspiciously, for group warmth. Some performers carry books, those who do remain fluent. Most, wisely, look their ages. All but two sing up a storm and everyone moves well. Choreography by Ani Taj is vigorous and cool.

This is very serious/It looks like this child has been severely beaten/We’ll have to perform an appendectomy…is sung to a troll doll with neon pink hair. We meet abused children, junkies, prostitutes, and grifters. Everyone has a personal story, yet characters are unidentified and without through line. Nor is there resolution or a happy ending. Instead of distancing the audience, this rivets us to collective emotion.

Runaways Encores! New York City Center

Cele Pahucki

Salsa, reggae, pop-rock tunes, chanting, and accompanied monologues fill the theater without hurting one’s ears. This is some of the best Sound Design ever – resonant, yet pristine and beautifully balanced (Leon Rothenberg). Chris Fenwick’s Music Direction is top notch. Arrangements are multi-layered and appealing. There is, however, and this is my single objection – untranslated Spanish.

I am the undiscovered son of Judy Garland/And I can dance and sing and wear fancy clothes./And whereas my sister Liza has to really work for applause/All you  have to do is look at me/And you weep with standing ovations… comes from a powerful number about search for identity. No one treats me like Mico do./He buys me halter tops and Corkies/And he got me a water bed up on our flat/On Avenue C between Fifth and Sixth… is the song of a 13 year-old streetwalker.

Runaways Encores! New York City Center

Kenneth Cabral

There are unheard messages for parents and authorities, tips on scoring necessities …enterprise, you got to enterprise…warnings, dreams, prayers, and descriptions of enraged violence. The limbo of adolescence is difficult enough without what these kids face at home and now must cope with on the street, yet, this is not a depressing show and I’m damned if I know why. The kids are fierce even when pleading to be allowed to experience childhood. Are we under the illusion they’ll get through?

Donayale Werle’s terrific Set is raw stage filled with theatrical equipment, the excellent band, a bunch of worse-for-wear couches, and an upturned mattress. It shouts irreverence. Microphones are on stands and handheld as if we were watching the show in 1978. Mark Barton’s fine Lighting Design emerges crisply up front and variegated shadow in the back. Costumes (Clint Ramos) are a riot of color (as is hair) mixing then and now with aesthetic appeal and mash-up sensibility.

Runaways Encores! New York City Center

The Company

Elizabeth Swados, who died this year, pushed envelopes of all kinds. Her body of work is as impressive as it is illuminating. In an effort to be as specific as possible, she reached the universal. 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 well as company numbers without, miraculously, ever getting messy. Relationships are pointedly fleeting. Use of street garbage=cardboard, as a graffiti wall and projection screen is organic and imaginative. Aisles and balconies are effectively employed. The wonderful cast is almost all without stage-kid consciousness. Dramatization is dynamic and credible. We’ll undoubtedly see many of these young people again and again in years to come.

Every now and then a choice gets made,/And some debt in your heart won’t be paid./Who gets left behind no one knows./Don’t always condemn/ The one who goes…

Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening: The Company

New York City Center Encores! Off-Center presents
Book, Lyrics,  and Music by Elizabeth Swados
Directed by Sam Pinkelton
City Center
131 West 55th Street

Coming Up:
Off-Centers Jamboree with Sutton Foster and Jonathan Groff  – July 16, 2016
Kurt Vonnegut’s Gods Bless You, Mr. Rosewater July 27-30, 2016

Melba Moore – I Got Love!


Melba Moore stepped back into my life on May 28. In her sixth performance at the Metropolitan Room, Tony Award winner and four-time Grammy nominee, Moore proved it’s her time again by seducing and wowing a packed house with a multigenerational audience.

As those of us who grew up with her remember, Moore burst onto the Broadway stage in 1967, a petite body with a huge voice in the original production of Hair (in which she first played a supporting role and then took the lead away from Diane Keaton) and Purlie (the original Lutiebelle). When she belted “I Got Love” from Purlie, the intensity of her youthful version was augmented by her gratitude about the love she’s had in her life.

IMG_4955 Moore+Old standards were delivered fresh (“Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Misty,” and “Lean on Me”). After sustaining that looong note in “Lean on Me,” Moore shimmied as she laughed and said she still has the notes; that’s an understatement, she’s got the vocal range for all the notes and the moves that bring out her passion for her repertoire.

In between songs, Moore artfully revealed some of the joyful and difficult parts of her journey. After winning a Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical in 1970, Moore went on to shine as an R&B and rock artist and continued in musical theater (in 1995, she played Fantine in Les Misérables, the only African-American to have done so) as well as acting in film and television. For many years, she performed a one-woman show, I’m Still Standing.

IMG_4959 Moore+Moore presented her repertoire with her able band – pianist and music director, Levi Barcourt; upright bassist, Leon Dorsey; drummer, Rodney Harrison Jr; and back-up singers – Clayton Bryant, Andrea Renee, and Irene Blackmon. In one number, Moore provided a live vocal to the instrumental track of one of the songs on her new album, Forever Moore (produced by George Pettus). The slight awkwardness of seeing her band idle during “It’s My Time Again” was dispelled as she conveyed a determination and joy about performing at this time in her life. Moore has great examples to follow; for one, her stepfather, jazz pianist Clement Leroy Moorman, is 100 years old and although they sometimes perform together, this time he was booked elsewhere.

IMG_5119 Moore2+Still beautiful and fit at 70 (look at her midriff!), Moore has an intense connection with the material that made every song sound new.  It was no surprise that Moore got a well-deserved standing ovation.  Go see her when you get a chance.

Anne Larocca is a professional writer based in California, a long time music enthusiast and occasional vocalist.

Photos by Fred R. Cohen. To see more of Fred’s photos, go to his website. 

Melba Moore
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street