Cameron Crowe’s Hit Almost Famous Rocks Broadway


Jack Pasquale

Cameron Crowe let the world in on his amazing life’s story with the film Almost Famous, which he wrote and directed in 2000. This was his sixth film after Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Wild LIfe, Say Anything, Singles and Jerry Maguire. Almost Famous is an extremely personal tale, which follows Mr. Crowe’s unbelievable journey as a high school teenager who goes on tour with some of the most famous rock bands for Rolling Stone magazine. The new Broadway hit musical closely follows the movie and features an all star cast led by Casey Likes, who plays William Miller (based on Cameron Crowe), Broadway veteran Anika Larsen as Elaine Miler (William’s Mom), and the incredibly talented Solea Pfeiffer as Penny Lane (rock fan and groupie). Almost Famous gives a front row seat to the emotional ups and downs that teenage Cameron Crowe faced. The impassioned and exciting new Almost Famous musical is a must see, with songs that you will remember, new ones that you will fall in love with and story you will never forget. 


We hope you enjoy Cameron Crowe’s exclusive Echo interview below! 



What made you decide the timing was right to bring Almost Famous to Broadway after your film 22 years ago?


I didn’t want to wait any longer! 22 years is a long time. My friends kind of talked me into pursuing Almost Famous as a musical. We’d been working together for about 5 years on it and it just kind of seemed like the time was right. It was right before COVID. We were supposed to come to Broadway a couple of years ago. So, everybody stayed close and the cast stayed together. Throughout COVID they stayed so loyal to the project that when we got a theatre it just seemed like the greatest time to bring it to reality. Then I got to meet you!


What is your favorite scene or song from Almost Famous Broadway and why?


I think my favorite song from the Almost Famous musical is a song called No Friends that Tom Kitt and I wrote. It’s mostly Tom Kitt’s song. He wrote a song about when you’re a journalist and you don’t have friends in your personal life but the people you’re writing about seem like they’re your friends but you have to maintain some journalistic distance to be an accurate journalist and judge people on their merits not just because you’re their friend. That is kind of a dilemma because I always felt like I was becoming friends with people that I was writing about. That’s kind of breaking the rules. No Friends is about that and I thought that was a fresh idea for a song. I never heard a song before that was about the melancholy of making friends with people you are journalistically at work trying to profile. It is tough sometimes.


What is the one incident that happened when you were on the road that you wish you did not hold back from the movie and Broadway version?


I will tell you there is a moment I am really proud of that is in the movie that I wish was in the musical actually. It’s when Russell Hammond the guitarist keeps telling me he’ll do the interview tomorrow or next week. I remember just crying – sitting in the hallway of the hotel and just feeling so alone and lonely – and that is in the movie. I wish that moment lived in the Broadway version too. But hopefully you sense the character’s loneliness even without that scene. But that scene in the movie always makes me kind of emotional. It’s a good question.


The portrayal of your Mother by Anika Larsen was outstanding. Was that the most important character to you for the show to get right?


Yes. It was because the musical was my Mom’s dream really. My Mom had a really strong instinct that this would be a beautiful thing for our family and she really loved the movie Almost Famous. I really wanted the show to be a tribute to her in some ways. I love how strong her character is. We had to cut one of her songs, which I think in future versions of the musical I want to put back. It’s a song called He Knows Too Little (and I know Too Much). I love that song. To me it really captured my Mom and my Mom’s character. But I really appreciate you noticing Anika Larsen the actor who is playing Elaine Miller, the character based on my Mom. She really gets the teacher aspect of my Mom correct. And you probably know this from your Dad a little bit – somebody that’s really a good partner in your creative process. You know you want to write that character as well as you possibly can because they’re important to you.


Did you stay in touch with person that inspired Penny Lane?  Did she really go to Morocco?


I do! I invited her to the opening night. She flew in from Oregon and was there with three of her girlfriends on opening night. I don’t think she went to Morocco. But what she did was start an old folks home for rock stars, which is what she always said she would do. And she did it.


Did your Mother really lecture the band members you were traveling with?


She did! She lectured a couple different people I was profiling. There was a guy from the band Deep Purple that she talked to like she does in the movie and the play. She was always teaching – whether it was somebody she met at her hair salon or a rockstar. She always felt like there was a lesson to be given at any given point.


What happened after you got your Rolling Stone cover story? Did you finish school?


I did finish school. I didn’t stay long in college though. I continued to do articles and write stories. I figured that was my college education much to the chagrin of my Mom. But I felt like my journalism teacher was asking me if I could get him into Rolling Stone magazine – published in Rolling Stone magazine. And at that point I figured if my teacher is asking me to give him career help – I think I’m cool leaving college for right now. I wish I had gone to college more though.


What made you decide to go from reporting to screenwriting to directing?


It was kind of a natural progression. My dream was to just get an article in Rolling Stone magazine. And when that happened when I was your age I was just making up new dreams all the time. I’m so lucky I got to work with people that wanted to help me learn to write a screenplay or learn to direct. I am only here because people decided they wanted to give me a hand. I sometimes asked for help and they gave it. It is always inspiring the generosity of people when you ask for help.


If you could bring one of your other films to Broadway, which one would you choose?


Probably Say Anything. That was the first movie I directed. I really like Say Anything and character Lloyd Dobler played by John Cusack. All of these characters are based on real people. I’ve always felt like I was a bit of a journalist at all times not just a director or screenwriter but really just trying to get the details and the facts right of real life characters. Say Anything was good because Lloyd Dobler was based on a next door neighbor of mine. So I liked writing about that character.


Your life’s story is Almost Famous.  Would you do anything differently if you could do it all over again?


That’s another really good question Jack! I mean I have little regrets like most people but I feel mostly really, really lucky that I stayed positive because it’s a rough world out there. But there is so much goodness, particularly in the stories you can tell. I like telling stories that make people feel a little better about life and the people and the characters they might have met in the story. So, I’m really happy the way things turned out that I’m able to talk to you today about stories and characters. It’s my favorite thing in the world. I wouldn’t change anything if it had to do with getting me to the point where I am at right now talking to you.


Lester Bangs in Almost Famous worries that new bands lack the good type of music of older bands. Do you think that is still the case with today’s music?


I think there’s a lot of great musicians around right now. I like Phoebe Bridgers a lot. I think Taylor Swift is a great songwriter. I think there’s great music wherever you look. I think it’s all about songs. I just think writers like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchel ushered in an era of personal and intimate songwriting that I still love so much. I’m really happy with all the new music, as well as the music I’ve loved for decades.


What advice were you given that took you the longest to unlearn because it was wrong?


That’s a really great question. I guess the thing to unlearn is you have to do things the way that they have been done before. A lot of times you have to break a rule to make a rule for yourself. I think the grand rule in writing, for example, is to write about the things that interest you. I know a lot of people have had to unlearn the rule of just go out and get a job – write something that’s already been a hit. I think you’ll never succeed by trying to imitate somebody else’s hit. I think the thing to unlearn is that you can start out doing something that you think you’re supposed to be doing and then do what you really know you should be doing later. You loose the chance to do what’s in your heart if you don’t do what’s in your heart first. I got lucky because Almost Famous really is the story of my family and loving music – pretty much this would generally be the first movie you would make or the first story you would tell, which is your autobiographical story. I was lucky that I was able to go back and make my first movie as my fourth movie. I got lucky there in that is also Almost Famous and that is what I hear most about – the one thing I did that people seem to really always want to talk to me about. And here we are with the Broadway musical version of it in the Bernard Jacobs Theater right now. It is an interesting path that Almost Famous took. If somebody said to me the day we finished the movie that it would be a Broadway musical I would politely tell them to enjoy the rest of their day. But it came true. Life is the best writer and I couldn’t make any of that up.


What advice would you give to aspiring high school writers and film students?


Make a movie that only you could do. Generally, write about your family or friends or people that you know in real life. That has always been the best thing for me. I think when you write about situations you know – even more embarrassing ones – it is better. You just have a greater chance of making people laugh, as well as love the story you are telling. So, I would say write about real life.  


Almost Famous is your life’s story. No one knows the story or how to portray it better than you. Do you ever read newspaper reviews or just ignore them?


I read some reviews and I don’t read other reviews. Generally, I think if you know what you have done and you know the qualities it has and you know where you could work harder next time – that’s all you need to know. The other thing is watching a play that you’ve written, or a movie that you’ve written or reading something out loud even – nothing beats the experience of sharing it in a live situation with people. You’ll always know. You can tell in a room – even with people who aren’t speaking – how they’re relating to something you’ve done. So, I say share what you’re doing with people and you will get a sense in the room. You will generally know more than anything someone else would have written. You’ll know it in your heart.


The Facts:

Location: Bernard B. Jacobs, 242 W 45th Street, New York

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.

Ticket Price Range: $44 to $318