Review Roundup: ALMOST FAMOUS Opens On Broadway!- See What The Critics Are Saying!

Almost Famous is a spirited tale of fandom, family, and the unforgettable characters you'll meet along the way. Turn it up!

By: Nov. 03, 2022
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Review Roundup: ALMOST FAMOUS Opens On Broadway!- See What The Critics Are Saying!
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It's a big night at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre! Almost Famous, the new musical with book and lyrics by Academy Award and Grammy Award winner Cameron Crowe, based on his iconic film, opens on Broadway tonight. Almost Famous features music and lyrics by Tony, Grammy, Emmy and Pulitzer Prize Award® winner Tom Kitt, direction by Tony and Olivier Award® nominee Jeremy Herrin, and choreography by Sarah O'Gleby.

The production stars Chris Wood, Tony Award® nominee Anika Larsen, Solea Pfeiffer, Drew Gehling, Rob Colletti, and introducing Casey Likes. The company will also include Matt Bittner, Chad Burris, Gerard Canonico, Julia Cassandra, Brandon Contreras, Jakeim Hart, Van Hughes, Jana Djenne Jackson, Claire Kwon, Katie Ladner, Danny Lindgren, Erica Mansfield, Alisa Melendez, Kevin Trinio Perdido, Andrew Poston, Emily Schultheis, Daniel Sovich, Libby Winters, and Matthew C. Yee.

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. Almost Famous is a spirited tale of fandom, family, and the unforgettable characters you'll meet along the way. Turn it up!

Read the reviews!


Jesse Green, The New York Times: I'm sorry to say that despite the intelligence of the 2000 movie on which it's based, and the track record of its creators, the stage musical misses every opportunity to be the sharp, smart entertainment it might have been. In retelling the story of a 15-year-old who gets sucked prematurely into the world of bands and groupies and roadies and drugs, it lands instead in a mystifying muddle, occasionally diverting but never affecting.

Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post: Those classic bits are all still here, yes, but they're a wisp of the original. British director Jeremy Herrin, who should stick to plays and steer clear of Stratocasters, composer-lyricist Tom Kitt and book writer-lyricist Crowe do not present a compelling case for why the film must be a Broadway musical. It's pleasant and sweet and passes the time, sure, but should that be enough?

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Did it need to become a stage musical? Debatable. But one thing the effusive show gets right, like the movie that spawned it, is the infectious energy of rock 'n' roll at a transitional moment - 1973 - when the raw, rebellious spirit of great rock was making way for the slicker, more commercialized sound of mass-consumption superstardom. For many epochal bands and solo artists, that year was an artistic peak they would never again match. That gives Crowe's quasi-memoir, in both incarnations, a bittersweet undertow of simultaneous discovery and loss.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Fully competent and coherent, "Almost Famous" also has many skilled and engaging performers and a nicely droll visual pallet from the designers Derek McLane, David Zinn and Natasha Katz. But when Penny Lane overdoses, the pain of that moment is brushed over with a nervous joke. That's also true of William's sexual awakening and, ultimately, even the rebellion of sister Anita Miller (Emily Schultheis). Irony and pain only rarely enter the building.

Frank Rizzo, Variety: Kitt and Crowe also fashion several effective numbers sung by William's no-nonsense but supportive mother Elaine (Anika Larsen), a schoolteacher who frets from home. Here, she's given variations of the film's great monologues: One is a lecture to her class in which she memorably declares, "Rock stars have kidnapped my son," and in another, she gives Russell a dose of parental terror over the phone. Larsen lands both moments beautifully, with just the right comic gravitas and heart. But these skillful original songs only tell half the story. We never hear expressed - in a way that only musical theater can do - what this music means to these characters. Instead, at key dramatic moments we get renditions of the hits of the era, notably Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" as a kind of carpool karaoke, Joni Mitchell's "River" and Yusef Islam's (aka Cat Stevens) "The Wind." But even in minor moments the musical forgoes original songs and turns to tunes from Nancy Wilson, Ron Davies, Stevie Wonder, Greg Allman, Jimmy Page and Robert Point, among others.

David Finkle, New York Stage Review: It needs to be said that as the established songs of tunesmithing brilliance and others moderately serviceable emerge, they're sung by a cast of first-rate rock belters, led by the likes of Likes, Pfeiffer, and Wood. Patrons are advised not to leave before the curtain-call finale, when each of the gifted ensemble barrels forward to show his or her sizzling stuff. "Penny Lane" is not delivered entirely or partially. So, McCartney's memorable lyric isn't heard about the Penny Lane nurse who "though she feels as if she's in a play, she is anyway." Crowe's Penny Lane is in a play, a musical -and not an especially powerful one, at that.

Sandy Macdonald, New York Stage Review: Theatre-goers who favor musicals derived from popular movies constitute a subspecies. If one may generalize, they want a product that cleaves pretty closely to the source material, ideally with some original songs and witty dialogue thrown in. Novel twists to the plot? Not so much. Thus, for those of us who attend shows hoping to be ushered through challenging, uncharted situations, these reenactments can be a bit of a bore. London-based director Jeremy Herrin does his utmost to pep up this musicalized revenant of the hit 2000 movie. Cameron Crowe, the original author/protagonist (it's based on his own teenage quest) wrote the book and co-crafted the lyrics with composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal). They've worked in a few amusing allusions to the limitations of pre-internet communications, so there's that, in terms of novelty. Kudos are also due the skilled contributors who concretize the narrative in 3D: clever, adaptable set by Derek McLane, period (1973) costumes by David Zinn, evocative lighting by Natasha Katz (that thunderstorm!), just-short-of-deafening sound by Peter Hylenski.

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: In a way, the production itself doesn't take Lester's advice either. It's not dumb enough to be enjoyed as straight-out rock n roll - like, for example, the jukebox rock musical "Rock of Ages." But at the same time, although it has its pleasures, "Almost Famous" is not quite smart enough to have been fully satisfying to me as musical theater. I remember loving the movie. I don't feel as enthusiastic about the musical, even though the story is virtually identical, scene after scene, and the book is written by Cameron Crowe, who both wrote and directed the movie, winning an Oscar for a screenplay that was inspired by his own experiences as a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone in the 1970s.

Juan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: In another devastating blow to the "West Coast Has Taste" community, the musical Almost Famous has opened on Broadway, after a well-received premiere run in San Diego, to put another nail in that idealistic California coffin. It is a production so dull, with poor direction, ugly sets, uninteresting music, and flat performances, that it really needn't exist at all. Mind you, my beef here is mainly with the Pacific-facing critics who-be it through payola, their overall lack of theatre, or whichever self-help cult they've got going on over there these days-allowed me to raise my expectations for a show which counts among the most artistically lacking I've seen.

Dalton Ross, Entertainment Weekly: While watching this new stage adaptation of Cameron Crowe's 2000 coming-of-age-on-a-tour-bus film, I couldn't help but wonder what the actual Bangs - the preeminent rock critic of his era obsessed with the anarchic lo-fi danger of the Stooges - would make of being a character in a splashy Broadway musical. It's safe to say he would probably not be a fan. But Bangs might also find himself wondering how a musical all about the love of music could fall so flat when it comes to the actual, you know, music. That is the biggest flaw in an adaptation that faithfully follows the original source material... sometimes a little too faithfully, with entire sections of dialogue and almost every scene and plot point seemingly lifted directly from the original film. In the end, you find yourself wishing that a production about the rebellious world of rock & roll would let its hair down a bit more and take bigger risks instead of playing it safe at almost every turn.

Jackson McHenry, Vulture: To that end, the musical scrupulously duplicates the movie, delivering nearly every famous line of dialogue right where you expect it, whether shouted ("Don't take drugs!"), sung ("It's all happening"), or yelled out in the middle of a song ("I am a golden god!"). It so desperately wants to remind you of something else you might've loved that the presiding emotional affect ends up being melancholy. We've missed the tour bus twice over. This is almost Almost Famous.

Charles Isherwood, The Wall Street Journal: Almost everything about "Almost Famous," the Broadway musical adaptation of the Cameron Crowe movie from 2000, feels almost-good-enough. Stage versions of celebrated films are an annual, never-subsiding tide on New York stages, and certainly this production rises above the average by some measure. Nevertheless much of the quirky delicacy and emotional richness that made the movie so funny and moving are swamped by the inevitable need to amplify the material to fill a Broadway house.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: Rarely has rock 'n' roll looked and sounded as boring and tedious as it does in the strange Broadway mess that is Almost Famous (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, booking to April 9, 2023). This is odd, as the musical is based on the popular Oscar-winning film, written and directed by Cameron Crowe, who also wrote the book and lyrics for the stage show (music and other lyrics by Tom Kitt). Semi-autobiographical, it features teenage journalist William Miller (Casey Likes) as he wheedles his way, by faking being much older on the phone, into following a dysfunctional rock band called Stillwater to make his writing debut in Rolling Stone in 1973. The result, on stage, is wince-inducing-a leaping, sing-songy, wishy-washy, toothless, sanitized, and humorless version of what that era of rock 'n' roll was.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Theatre Guide: Cameron Crowe's musical adaptation of his much-loved 22-year-old Oscar-winner, Almost Famous, gets off to a very promising start. So much so you silently hope Crowe (book and lyrics), Tom Kitt (music and lyrics), and director Jeremy Herrin can sustain the high level for the whole 2.5 hours. Long story short, no such luck. Fortunately, the show is filled with fine performances and getup that takes us back a half-century without looking like a costume party. The energizing early vignettes come packed with rockers, groupies, backstage bustle, swirling doorways, blazing stage lights, flared jeans, macrame halter tops and crocheted hot pants. We know the time, the place, who's who, and what's at stake.

Elysa Gardner, NY Sun: "Almost Famous" almost always works better with such winking gestures than it does with sappier ones. You'll definitely want to stick around for the exuberant curtain call, an affirmation that rock music has definitely not taken its last gasp - not on Broadway, certainly.

Brittani Samuel, Broadway News: Director Jeremy Herrin, best known for his work with grand epics like "Wolf Hall" and Shakespearean dramas, is out of his league here; too many scenes are just a muddle of movement with no center - helped none by Sarah O'Gleby's almost amateurish choreography. Most shocking of all, the production even defeats the great set designer Derek McLane, who fills a butt-ugly steel cage with cheap-looking furniture and cardboard cutouts, and resorts to giant maps or huge photos to give us a sense of place. Still, the filmmaker, who wrote the musical's book and lyrics, is primarily to blame. Not only is the script too cinematic in nature to work well on stage, but Crowe also simply fails to understand that great theater is about story, not atmosphere (which was the film's strongest suit). What we should getting is a deeply moving coming-of-age story more firmly focused on William's hard-earned life lessons about the dangers of meeting your heroes (even if one turns out to be nice in the end), the actual rigors of professional journalism, and the pain of young love.

Brian Scott Lipton, Cititour: Director Jeremy Herrin, best known for his work with grand epics like "Wolf Hall" and Shakespearean dramas, is out of his league here; too many scenes are just a muddle of movement with no center - helped none by Sarah O'Gleby's almost amateurish choreography. Most shocking of all, the production even defeats the great set designer Derek McLane, who fills a butt-ugly steel cage with cheap-looking furniture and cardboard cutouts, and resorts to giant maps or huge photos to give us a sense of place. Still, the filmmaker, who wrote the musical's book and lyrics, is primarily to blame. Not only is the script too cinematic in nature to work well on stage, but Crowe also simply fails to understand that great theater is about story, not atmosphere (which was the film's strongest suit). What we should getting is a deeply moving coming-of-age story more firmly focused on William's hard-earned life lessons about the dangers of meeting your heroes (even if one turns out to be nice in the end), the actual rigors of professional journalism, and the pain of young love.

Bedatri D. Choudury, Did They Like It?: Like a good old friend, Almost Famous takes you on a trip and brings you home safely. For two hours, I sat back, humming along, grateful I chose to share a profession with greats like Bangs, Fong-Torres, and Miller.

Peter Marks, The Washington Post: Warning: Do not re-watch the 2000 movie "Almost Famous" if you plan to see "Almost Famous," the new Broadway musical. Because the movie is so good. And the stage version is so less good. Comparisons are anathema but seem unavoidable in the case of this musical, which marked its official Broadway opening Thursday night at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre. Cameron Crowe, who wrote and directed the movie, starring Billy Crudup and Kate Hudson, recycles the screenplay, including large chunks of dialogue, for the Broadway incarnation. And though Tom Kitt - winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his own, highly original musical, "Next to Normal" - collaborated with Crowe on some new songs, the show is not much more than a wan rewind of what transpired on-screen.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Tom Kitt wrote the music for "Next to Normal," and with "Almost Famous," he is credited as co-lyricist and composer of most of the score. He is at his best with dreamy ballads like "Morocco," nicely sung by Pfeiffer, that convey a sense of elusive longing. But after a few of these songs, Kitt's penchant for the 4/4 time signature becomes a kind of corn syrup poured over the entire score. The real Stillwater songs "Fever Dog" and "I Come at Night" make brief appearances, when the band is practicing or performing onstage. More telling is the use of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" to end Act 1 - a verbatim re-creation of a scene from the movie. What is happening here as the band travels on the road in their bus? Did someone in Stillwater turn on the radio, and having a brief lapse of good taste, prefer Elton John to anything written by Tom Kitt?

 


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