Rye's Review: ALMOST FAMOUS The Hit Movie Turned Musical on Broadway
Updated: Nov 9, 2022
Tonight I attended a performance of the new Broadway musical Almost Famous (based on the hit 2000 movie) at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, and boy, was I in for a treat. The show had its official opening night on Thursday, November 3, and celebrated it with some of the biggest names in the business, including legends like Joni Mitchell herself.
Now, if you are a big theatre fan/nerd/geek/lover/all of the above like I am, I am sure you saw that the reviews for this show were less than flattering. I knew I was seeing this show today, so I didn't want to read the reviews or get too deep into them, but I scanned the review headlines and could tell this new musical was not what people thought it would be. But everyone has their opinion, and I have mine, so let's get into it!
First, an upfront (and rather embarrassing) disclaimer, I have NOT seen the movie Almost Famous, so I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I had heard of the film, knew the semi-general premise, and knew there was lots of rock n' roll in it, but that was all. Once I took my seat and saw the set, which gave me MAJOR RENT vibes with the metal scaffolding set and multi-use platforms, I knew this would be interesting! Overall, I really enjoyed this show and felt personal that any unbounded hate the mainstream critics had for it was unwarranted, but again, I have no knowledge of the film.
On the topic of the set design, which was designed by Tony Award winner Derek McLane (MJ the Michael Jackson Musical and Moulin Rouge) I thought the use of it was clever. It was nothing over the top, and they made good use of the transitions, including changing the signs for the different venues they went into. I also found the scene where they are on the private jet in turbulence quite fascinating with how McLane created the private set. I shan't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet!
This cast. Oh my, this cast! I don't know how they pull this off night after night, and with the crazy rock vocals added in, I am impressed. The cast welcomes Broadway newcomers making their Broadway debut, such as the INCREDIBLY talented goddess of all things musical theater, Solea Pfeiffer (Penny Lane). Casey Likes (William Miller) is also cast perfectly in the role of the young 15-year-old rock journalist wanna-be. How Casey brings that boyish sense of charm, wisdom, innocence, and rebellion to the character made it much more enjoyable. His performance was truly spectacular, and it was a performance for the ages, the likes of which we've not seen before... See what I did there ;)
Another new face on the boards is Chris Wood (Russell Hammond), who is fantastic as the lead guitarist of the band Stillwater and one of the main leads of the show. Chris's 1973 rocker-esque looks (done by the costume designer David Zinn) and vocals match the character perfectly, and he gives you all the emotion of what we would have assumed from a rockstar of that time.
Of course, there are many familiar faces too, including the incomparable Drew Gehling, who stars as the hysterical and looney frontman Jeff Bebe. He is your total "yeah, dude" rocker of the '70s. He also appears in the scenes in vintage black and white briefs, which just adds to the character's appeal and was a good sight to see. I only saw Drew in Waitress, so I forgot that he had those KILLER vocals! Seeing him in a new role and using his full range was great. Other wonderful standouts who are Broadway alums include Anika Larsen (Elaine Miller), Rob Colletti (Lester Bangs & others), Van Hughes ( Freddy/David Felton & others), and Gerard Canonico (Dick Roswell).
For me, Almost Famous was a show that was just your feel-good show that threw us all back to that era when rock n' roll was ruling the music industry, sort of a snapshot of "the good ole day of music". No show is perfect, and like most, the second act seemed to rush by with not too much explanation and was fast-paced. Still, I was told by a friend that if you didn't see the film, you would have thought the same thing because they didn't explain things fully as they did in the movie--you only have so many minutes from curtain up to curtain down kids!
Ohh, Jimmy Fallon is supposedly joining the show on select random dates to be announced to reprise his role as Dennis Hope which he played in the movie!
Get your tickets to Almost Famous now by using my special link and clicking here!