It all happens in the almost famous Broadway musical

The post It all happens in the almost famous Broadway musical appeared first on Aftermath.

One of the finest moments in Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical classic almost known arrives in the film’s iconic “Tiny Dancer” scene: At one of the story’s most tense moments, the fictional band Stillwater (and their “band-aids”) launch into an impromptu performance of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” on their bus tour. Protagonist William Miller turns to Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane and reminds her, “I have to go home,” to which she replies, “You are residence.”

It’s a simple yet profound moment for William – a reminder that even in the fleeting chaos of responsibility and growth, he’s gotten to where he needs to be, and the unity and passion for music that surrounds him is , indeed, at home.

For a film brimming with passion, it’s more than fitting to stage a Broadway adaptation of it – after all, Broadway and the theater community are meant to share the same “it takes a village” spirit that a touring band can boast, and the energy conveyed by a fine Broadway show is enough to shake emotions and bring people together. And after a successful tryout for the musical at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego in 2019 and three years of pandemic-related delays, almost known finally opens at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on Broadway on November 4 (get tickets here).

Needless to say, that’s a long time coming for the majority of the cast and crew – many of whom are making their Broadway debut and have been attached to the production since 2019. One of those actors is Casey Likes, who has the distinct honor of playing William Miller. “I was 17 when I first joined the cast three years ago, and I was very new to the biggest landscape in this Broadway world,” he said. Result. “We were supposed to do this pretty quickly and go straight to Broadway the following year. And then obviously the pandemic happened… so it sure means a lot to know that we went through all of that to get here.

Of course, Likes has some big shoes to fill. Almost known; not only is William the wide-eyed protagonist we experience the story through, but he’s based on Cameron Crowe himself, who found himself covering bands like the fictional Stillwater for rolling stone in his adolescence. Fortunately, over the past three years, Likes has formed a close bond with Crowe. “He’s one of my best friends,” Likes says, “I’ve spent more time with Cameron than I’ve spent with anyone in the cast, crew, or crew. .. I got to know Cameron from age 17 to age 20, which is amazing.

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Likes is one of 15 actors making their Broadway debut in almost knowna number larger than most new productions these days. “I’m proud to say that we have 15 actors making their full debut…and that has so much energy in it,” says director Jeremy Herrin. “We have a great company of actors with great voices, we have an orchestra of virtuosos. So we can express that joy through virtuosity, through skill, through connectedness, and there is nothing more expressive in terms of emotion than music.

It’s a big theme of almost known which translates beautifully on stage: connectivity. What’s so special about the story isn’t just seeing the passion William has for music – it’s William having that passion validated by the people around him, about the transformative power of music. , how she can give us purpose and tell us “we are home.”

Tom Kitt, who composed the music and lyrics for the musical and is a Pulitzer winner for next to normal, found this idea crucial when creating the musical language of the show. “I would bet most people have a moment when a piece of music transforms them in some way, and they were never the same,” he says. “I think if we can capture the feeling where someone tunes into a piece of music in real time and sees the world differently and is now looking for something…that’s a great feeling that we would like to exploit.”

The rest of the cast feels the same and they all praise the show’s dedication to sharing and loving music. Chris Wood, who plays Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond, believes that enthusiasm is key to starring in this musical. “There are scientific studies on Parkinson’s disease, people who have had strokes, or people with mental health issues that show that music can literally heal you,” Wood said. Result. “It connects languages, cultural divides, different religious and societal beliefs…it’s miraculous.”

As Russell Hammond, Wood often has a guitar around his shoulders, and he physically plays it for much of the show: “None of it is dubbed,” he says, “It’s all live and terrifying ! But Wood’s overall relationship with music runs even deeper; in addition to being an actor, he is a songwriter through and through, citing James Taylor as his primary inspiration. It’s fitting that Wood calls James Taylor a musical hero, because the new almost known the adaptation features a broader take on its ’70s references than the original film.

Where almost known originally referenced the rock music of the time, the musical explores the folk styles of Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in a much more comprehensive way. There’s a more considerate effort by the show’s creative team to bring intimacy to the story with songs that reference these artists – this is perhaps best exemplified in the act. 2 when Penny Lane, played by Solea Pfeiffer, sings a heartfelt and devastating rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Rivière.” It’s the kind of soul-searching moments we never see in the original film, and it’s not the only change the team has made.

almost famous broadway

almost famous broadway

Almost Famous, photo by Krista Schlueter

Cameron Crowe, who wrote the book for the musical adaptation, retained much of its original dialogue, ensuring that the film’s most hilarious and iconic lines made their way into production. But he decided that this time around there were different elements to revamp – in particular the character of Penny Lane. “She’s not a maniacal pixie dream girl,” Crowe says Result. “She’s based on a real person who was true to her word at the time. She never wrote a tell-all book, she never deviated from someone who just loved music. She’s sort of a beacon through the years for me, so I wanted to give her a bit more.

Crowe is also thrilled to bring Lester Bangs in full force to the stage production. “I feel like we’re taking a little bit of Lester and putting him in front of an audience that might never have read or known him otherwise,” Crowe says. “And if anyone will check out Lester Bangs’ handwriting after seeing this show, I can walk away happy.” Rob Colletti, who plays Lester Bangs in the production, brings his thunderous voice and enthusiastic conviction to the character on stage. But Colletti’s task is even trickier, given that the original role was perfectly executed by the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

“Obviously I felt that pressure,” Colletti says, “But Cameron made himself so available from the beginning of the whole process for me, saying ‘I want you to feel comfortable, he doesn’t there’s no pressure for you to accomplish anything, we want you to create that around you.'” Colletti goes on to praise Lester Bang’s more omniscient presence in the musical: “We wanted to create Lester in this story not only as the sense of conscience, but as the spiritual guide. He’s like a specter behind the scenes being the voice of reason for William as he goes through all these various barricades that pop up on his journey.

While the musical’s source material is already iconic, it’s worth noting that almost known is tailor-made for audience members who are already fans of the film — this writer included. It is hard to imagine how people without preconceptions about almost known will meet the musical; Sure, the show’s music is hugely expressive and can go straight to the heart, but the overall story might not be as poignant for all audience members. Adaptations are always risky in this respect, but thankfully, almost known speaks of a universal connection that anyone can foster with any art medium.

No one knows that better than Crowe. “If a man from the future had come to me and told me that this little movie about loving music and your family – that you snuck into the system because Jerry Maguire did well – it’s going to be the thing people want to talk to you about, they don’t remember Jerry Maguirethey want to talk about almost known and it’ll go to Broadway… I would have said, ‘You’re on acid, but you’re entertaining.’ »

Working on adapting his original screenplay almost 20 years later allowed Crowe to really reflect on the period of his life that almost known depicts. “You know, Gregg Allman taking my tapes and me thinking I was gonna get kicked out of my first big story for Rolling stone… it was the end of “magic boots”, he said. “Life will not always be your mother’s great aphorism. There’s gonna be some stoned guy, who decides you’re a cop, takes your tapes and gets you fired by Ben Fong-Torres – that’s your dream, mate. But then my sister found me at the airport and helped me get home…it felt like a fantasy that was actually real, which sometimes life can be drawn out.

He ends our conversation with a profound wisdom that lies at the heart of Almost known: “If your dream dies today, trust tomorrow.”

It’s a fitting message to share on one of the biggest stages in the world, and the musical is definitely a compelling portrait of artistry, passion, and finding your place. And when you find it, they just ask you to take a look and say, “It’s all happening.

Editor’s note: Broadway production Almost Famous runs through April 2023; get tickets here.

It all happens in the almost famous Broadway musical
Paolo Ragusa

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