It's All Happening at Almost Famous on Broadway
This month, I took a trip to New York City, where one of the highlights was visiting The Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre for a performance of the new musical, Almost Famous.
And in short, I’m here to tell you that you must do the same because…
It’s all happening.
Almost Famous is based on the movie of the same name which premiered in 2000. Twenty-two years later, the story has been adapted for the Broadway stage with a script by Cameron Crowe, the writer of the film. Original music was created by Tom Kitt, and the production is directed by Jeremy Herrin.
The year is 1973 and it’s all happening.
Led Zeppelin is king, Richard Nixon is President, and idealistic 15-year-old William Miller is an aspiring music journalist. When Rolling Stone magazine hires him to go on the road with an up-and-coming band, William is thrust into the rock-and-roll circus, where his love of music, his longing for friendship, and his integrity as a writer collide.
As someone who loves the original film, I was very excited to see this show and it was everything I wanted and more.
Here’s something epic about Almost Famous: it works as an adaptation and as a standalone - which is no easy feat. If you’re a fan of the movie, it has everything you want included onstage. If you’ve never seen the movie, you don’t need that in order to enjoy the beautiful story being told onstage.
Cameron Crowe has done a wonderful job of adapting his screenplay to the stage. He uses the various elements of live theatre to his advantage, taking each opportunity to dig deeper into his story and characters.
Tom Kitt has written a beautiful and intricate score which wonderfully enhances the story. The original music captures the era and it showcases multiple styles. While many of the tunes are what you expect of early 70s rock, there are also many songs which are quintessentially modern Broadway, along with combinations of both.
For example: Elaine’s Lecture in the second act is a witty and emotional soliloquy, and 1973 is a brilliant mix of the show’s rock sound while still fitting the structure of a classic Broadway opening. The show also includes a few of the movie’s iconic songs like Tiny Dancer, which are brilliantly arranged by Kitt.
When you walk into the Jacobs, it’s like walking into a rock concert. Derek McLane’s set design, Natasha Katz’s lighting, Peter Hylenski’s sound design, David Zinn’s costume design and Luc Verschueren’s hair, wig, and makeup design all work together to transport the audience back to 1973.
The cast of Almost Famous is full of incredible talent, bringing beloved characters to life.
Casey Likes makes a brilliant Broadway debut in the role of William, authentically guiding the audience through the story in a way that has everyone cheering him on from his very first step onstage.
Solea Pfeiffer takes a star turn as Penny Lane. She grounds the character’s whimsical charisma, giving a magnetic and raw performance which is not to be missed.
In the roles of Russell Hammond and Jeff Bebe, Chris Wood and Drew Gehling are wonderful, both having far more charisma than their on screen counter-parts. Wood is genuine and vulnerable, letting the audience see Russell’s inner struggle. Gehling is over-the-top in the best way possible, with perfect comedic timing.
Electric performances are also given by Anika Larsen as Elaine, Katie Ladner as Sapphire, Julia Cassandra as Estrella, Jana Djenne Jackson as Polexia, Matt Bittner as Larry Fellows, and Brandon Contreras as Silent Ed. But honestly, every single cast member is extremely talented and well-cast!
And the vocals on everyone? Face. Melting.
This show is a brilliant ensemble piece, and each member of the cast has a chance to be featured and highlighted, not only throughout the show, but in their encore and bows, which might actually be the best on Broadway.
I would absolutely recommend seeing this show if you have the opportunity, it has everything you could want in a Broadway musical.
I was shocked by the reviews for this show, especially after seeing it myself and having it become one of my favourite shows ever. But here’s the thing: everyone is going to experience art differently, and at the end of the day, the people who love this show, love it hard and audience members are loving it!
At its core, Almost Famous is a musical about loving music and art, and the chosen family that comes with it. Ugh To me, that is a story extremely well-suited to the Broadway stage.
You are home.