Heartbreaking and pulsing with energy, Elizabeth Swados's "Runaways" still resonates 30 years after it was first staged at Cedar Crest College in 1987.

All the anger, angst and pain of the damaged title characters are on display in unflinching honesty in the show on stage last weekend at the college's Samuel Theater. "Runaways" most resembles a review, except while there is no linear story to tie it all together, all the characters are young teens who have left difficult home situations for a life on the streets.

The performers move almost as one, as they cavort around the stage which uses scaffolding and graffiti to create a sort of urban jungle gym designed by Roxanne Amico. Director Domenick Scudera has the cast, made up of of Cedar Crest college students as well as some young community members are in constant movement - climbing, running and playing throughout the show as one by one they come forward to tell their stories in song, monologue and verse in a colorful musical collage.

"Runaways" which opened on Broadway in 1978, was written by Swados who spent researched the lives of homeless children and interviewing adolescents on the streets in New York City in the 1970s. Some in the original cast were actual runaways. Characters range from drug addict and teen prostitutes to abused and neglected children.
In one scene, a boy gives a mock school report on current events in which violent headlines are interspersed with his unhappy home life and in another a girl perform a disturbingly brutal pretend surgery on a doll.Dominique

The music is almost continuous  through the show with a stream of stirring songs that showcase influences from pop, blues, reggae and hip-hop.  A live onstage band made up of Bill Whitney, Peder Halvorsen, Wayne Kurtz and Tom Mondschein  add and energy and urgency to the proceedings

The show draws comparisons to both the painful on stage confessions of the Broadway gypsies in "A Chorus Line" and the confrontational celebration of the counter-culture tribe of "Hair." In fact, the show even references the latter show in the song "Where are Those People Who Did Hair?"
"Song of a Child Prostitute," sung with hopelessness by Sophia Soleta as Jackie is devastating while "Find Me a Hero,"  sung by the entire company is laced with yearning. The more upbeat "We Are Not Strangers" in which the kids celebrate their hardscrabble community offers some hope and the pop-flavored finale  "Lonesome Of The Road" underscores the underlying strength of the kids.

One of the highlights is the bluesy "Minnesota Strip"  about the dangers of the street sung powerfully by Dominique Player as Iggy. Player also leads the reggae-esque "The Basketball Song," which celebrate the escape of playing basketball along with Sieanna Rahatt who plays EZ.

The company's "Every Now And Then" resonates with sadness and regret while "The Revenge Song" well sung by Kiana Clarke as Melinda gleefully imagines getting back at parents. However, parents also are offered  forgiveness "To The Dead Of Family Wars" also given a strong performance by Clarke.

The 1970s era costumes by Brian Strachan remind that the show is nearly 40 years old, but sadly many of the issues facing these desperate children continue to be a problem as illustrated in Cedar Crest's thought-provoking production.