Rarely has rock ‘n’ roll looked and sounded so dull and tedious as it does in the weird Broadway mess Almost famous (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, bookings by 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 follows teenage journalist William Miller (Casey Likes) who, through flattery by pretending to be much older over the phone, persuades himself to follow a dysfunctional rock band called Stillwater to make his writing debut Rolling Stone in 1973. The result on stage is cringeworthy—a bouncing, singing, wishy-washy, toothless, sanitized, and humorless version of what that rock ‘n’ roll era was.
in the Almost famous“William is thrown into the rock ‘n’ roll circus where his love of music, longing for friendship, and integrity as a writer collide,” reads the blurb. Almost famous is a spirited tale of fandom, family and the unforgettable characters you’ll meet along the way.”
The musical is none of that. At the end someone says how much fun it was all. Really, it hasn’t. William had a consistently dull, dreary time traveling with Stillwater. We don’t see him using or enjoying drugs. We don’t see that he enjoys a lot of sex. We don’t see him doing much journalism. We see that these plots are implied, but just when things could get interesting, the lights go out, just as our hero looks – well – overwhelmed or just plain confused. The musical drifts listlessly from scene to scene, devoid of narrative verve.
However, it also represents a kind of theatrical debut, where you cheer on the stage for the character that is supposed to be the square, the joy and wildness killer, William’s mother Elaine (Anika Larsen). Larsen has the best songs and best lines on the show, and the only moment worth cheering for is when she tells Stillwater’s lead singer Russell Hammond (Chris Wood) that not only are they bringing their son home, they are should not hurt or mislead him. “Yes,” you think – actually you should make sure that William is misled as much as possible.
William just seems too miserable, too rushed, too dimwitted to care that much. It’s one thing to portray him as a sweet, music-loving boy whose innocence and kindness are ultimately rewarded when he moves in what appears to be a snake’s nest. But he just seems clueless and boring and lacks the basic skills to even be a mild-mannered journalist.
Legendary writer Lester Bangs (Rob Colletti, excellently snappy) occasionally shows up on the sidelines to remind the teenager to be a journalist; don’t fall for the babble, actually ask some questions, understand the story. But William shows himself to be completely incapable of this. Indeed, that he doesn’t get the story because he just wants everyone to like him is played as demurely heroic and cute.
The anti-journalism fervor aroused by Donald Trump and his cronies in recent years is repeated and reused endlessly Almost famous. William’s nickname from the band is “The Enemy”. It is said playfully, but meaningfully and with poignancy. William doesn’t stand up for himself, doesn’t follow any of Bangs’ metaphorical jiggles to get his job done, and fits in with the line-up to be a kind of passive bystander happy to be around the band be.
Audiences around this critic groaned in agreement when a character mentioned journalistic reporting as something suspicious. Perhaps fact-checking in magazines has changed since Crowe’s time—but a line where a Rolling Stone The fact-checker supposedly accepts outright denial of everything in one piece as a reason to nix it, it’s ridiculous.
The band themselves are also devoid of any rock ‘n’ roll charisma, and while they are said to quarrel – over the amount of stage time and fame one member has over another – the acting is so cartoonish and the script so leaden it never flares up into anything approaching real aggression or tension. Just like William, although physically older, the bandmates look like boys dressed up as men.
“What’s her real name? Nobody knows! How does she enchant everyone who gets in her way? Nobody knows! How does she have so much style, wit and grace? Nobody knows!”
The same atmosphere of dispassionate baggage permeates the show’s attempted love triangle between William, Russell and the supposedly mysterious Penny Lane (Solea Pfeiffer). It should be Penny Lane Almost famous‘ Nico – the ultimate alluring rock muse and follower. What’s her real name? Nobody knows! How does she enchant everyone who gets in her way? Nobody knows! How does she have so much style, wit and grace? Nobody knows!
In truth, Penny Lane feels like an aggressively drawn straight man’s masturbatory fantasy – passive, voiceless, a totem of sex appeal and little more. There’s no mystery about her on the stage show, she just loafs around in the hippie garb of the dollar store. When her story is revealed at the very end, it doesn’t really change anything or land forcefully.
Almost famous is one of those musicals where the words and songs repeat themselves for about two and a half hours, and then, in the last 10 minutes, the production suddenly awakens from its own stupor for a big, welcome bang of a finale. “Where have you been?” you think as things finally get going. We cheer as William Miller has his first rock ‘n’ roll moment, leaping and headbanging across the stage for the inevitable standing ovation. Too bad this outburst of life happens outside of the story and way too late to save the show.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/almost-famous-on-broadway-is-a-rock-n-roll-nightmare?source=articles&via=rss “Almost Famous” on Broadway is a rock ‘n’ roll nightmare