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Review: RUNAWAYS at On The Verge Theatre

Review: RUNAWAYS at On The Verge Theatre

Houston’s bustling theatre scene adds a new jewel to its crown with a daring new company On The Verge Theatre and its inaugural production of the rarely produced Runaways.

Houston's bustling theatre scene adds a new jewel to its crown with a daring new company On The Verge Theatre and its inaugural production of the rarely produced Runaways. Runaways is described as a musical drama with comedic overtones that addresses children who must leave their homes for life on the street and its resulting issues. It was nominated for a Best Musical Tony Award in 1978.

Housing instability can have devastating effects on the lives of the youth affected and severely compromises their ability to evolve naturally into adulthood. Houselessness does not just affect youth, but also tells of broader implications for the communities in which they originate from due to redlining, harsh policing, failing education systems, racism and sexism.

Before the 90 minute musical begins, the cast members roam about the lobby for an immersive experience to encounter teen homelessness head on. The show itself ebbs and flows between traditional musical theatre, devised theatre, poetry, choral concert and jam session. This all makes for a seamless and inspired evening. The show is set in a homeless camp in New York City in 1978 but is so timely and poignant that it feels fresh and new and universal. The show uses spoken word and rhythm as a weapon to encourage mass conversations and the soulful score spans many genres such as protest songs, folk, gospel, reggae, musical theatre standards and many more.

Ron Jones and Bruce Lumpkin's direction and Monica Josette's clean choreography kept things kinetic and refreshing as we delved into tough subjects such as teen suicide, teen pregnancy, prostitution, sexual abuse, physical abuse and the dangers of escapism. There was clearly a great sense of trust between the fifteen actors, most of whom aren't too far from the ages of the characters they inhabit. Ranging from middle school, high school, college and professional actors, this band of brave storytellers danced with abandon, sang with soul and freely fell into vulnerability.

The show felt even more immediate and claustrophobic in Queensbury Theatre's hidden Blackbox, with the scenic design mostly consisting of a heap of broken furniture and forgotten mementos. The plastered posters, tattered clothing and worn out teddy bears emphasized the themes within the show without feeling too saccharine. Each costume wonderfully dictated individual flourishes through iconography and colors.

The phenomenal work of the cast is mostly that of its blend - at a moment's notice they are one or they are all to devastating effect. Each individual voice and tone got its moment to shine in respective moments. Musical Director Keith Lalonde, another Houston gem, is seated onstage to guide the cast to musical crispness. The varying ages, races, sizes of this multicultural and multigenerational cast drove the expansiveness of this issue home. Highlights amongst the theatrical magic was Mia Heckler's chilling "Song of a Child Prostitute", Sethe Nguyen's poignant "Please Don't Flunk Me" slam poem that succinctly offered the rare teen perspective about political upheaval, Jazmyn Bogany's spoon-fed Louie slam poem about a child's decline into crack use, Tyler Galindo's rousing finale monologue and the group number "Let Me Be A Kid" that served as a call to action to the parents of those very runaways.

I look forward to what's next for Houston's newest addition. Welcome, On the Verge.

The production runs until August 21st, 2022, Run(away) to see this show!




From This Author - Alric Davis

Alric Davis holds a B.F.A. from Howard University with a concentration in Musical Theatre and Playwriting. His original play Different, Damaged, Damned garnered positive reviews at the 2016 Capitol... (read more about this author)


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