Almost Famous

Original Broadway Cast, 2022 (Masterworks Broadway) 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) Meet the semi-jukebox musical: Almost Famous, based on the film about a 1970s rock band and the teen journalist William (Casey Likes) who embeds himself on tour, blends original songs by Tom Kitt and the film’s screenwriter, Cameron Crowe, with period hits and an occasional song written for the film. The problem is that the jukebox tunes — such as Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” Cat Stevens’ “The Wind,” and Joni Mitchell’s “River” — are far superior to the new material, especially as presented through Kitt’s characteristically lovely arrangements. Anika Larsen nails her big number in the role of William’s mother, lamenting in “Elaine’s Lecture” that “rock stars have kidnapped my son.” That’s really the show’s only effective character piece, since most of the new songs for Likes, Chris Wood as band frontman Russell, and Solea Pfeiffer as the mysterious, captivating groupie Penny Lane lack distinction. Pfeiffer in particular sounds stellar, but her songs aren’t worthy of her vocal maturity. The lyrics, by Kitt and Crowe, seldom sculpt the characters with any specificity. And even if songs like “Everybody’s Coming Together” aren’t from the jukebox, in a sense they might as well be: “Come join the revolution tonight / Be part of the solution tonight,” the ensemble sings generically. In a Broadway landscape overtaken by creators trying to make jukebox musicals and film adaptations theatrically viable, Almost Famous isn’t part of the solution on either count. — Dan Rubins