One of the finest moments of Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical coming of age classic Almost Famous arrives in the film’s iconic “Tiny Dancer” scene: At one of the most tense points in the narrative, the fictional band Stillwater (and their “band-aids”) launch into an impromptu performance of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” on their tour bus. Protagonist William Miller turns to Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane and reminds her, “I have to go home,” to which she replies, “You are home.”
It’s a simple, yet profound moment for William — a reminder that even in the fleeting chaos of responsibilities and growing up, he has arrived to where he needs to be, and the unity and passion for music that surrounds him is, indeed, home.
For a film that is bursting at the seams with passion, it’s more than appropriate to mount a Broadway adaptation of it — after all, Broadway and the theater community is meant to share the same “it takes a village” spirit that a touring band may boast, and the energy transmitted from a fine Broadway show is enough to rattle emotions and bring people together. And after a successful trial of the musical at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater back in 2019 and three years of pandemic-related delays, Almost Famous finally opens at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on Broadway on November 4th (get tickets here).
Needless to say, it’s a long time coming for the majority of the cast and crew — many of whom are making their Broadway debuts and have been attached to the production since 2019. One such cast member 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 greater landscape of this Broadway world,” he tells Consequence. “We were supposed to make this pretty fast and go right into Broadway the next year. And then obviously, the pandemic happened… so it definitely means quite a bit knowing that we went through all that to get here.”
Of course, Likes has some big shoes to fill in Almost Famous; not only is William the wide-eyed protagonist through which we experience the story, he’s based off of Cameron Crowe himself, who found himself covering bands like the fictional Stillwater for Rolling Stone in his teens. Luckily, over the past three years, Likes has formed a close connection with Crowe. “He’s one of my best friends,” says Likes, “I’ve spent more time with Cameron than I’ve spent with anyone in the cast, or crew, or team… I’ve gotten to know Cameron from age 17 to age 20, which is amazing.”
Likes is one of 15 cast members who are making their Broadway debut in Almost Famous, a number higher than most new productions these days. “I’m proud to say we’ve got 15 actors who are making their full debuts… and that just has so much energy within itself,” says director Jeremy Herrin. “We’ve got a large company of actors with great voices, we’ve got an orchestra of virtuosos. So we can express that joy through virtuosity, through skill, through connectivity, and there’s nothing more expressive in terms of emotion as music.”
This is a big theme of Almost Famous that translates beautifully to the stage: connectivity. What’s so special about the story is not just seeing the passion that William has for music — it’s William having that passion be validated by the people around him, about the transformative power of music, how it 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 show’s musical language. “Most people, I would bet, have a moment where 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 in real time connects to a piece of music and they see the world differently and are now in search of something… that’s a great feeling that we would love to harness.”