‘Almost Famous’ musical is almost ready to rock Broadway


It’s going to be Cameron Crowe vs. Alanis Morissette at the Tonys next year.

Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” begins previews in the fall at the Broadhurst Theatre. But it could be upstaged in the spring by Crowe’s adaptation of his terrific movie “Almost Famous.”

Crowe put on a couple of staged readings of his show this week for the powers that be on Broadway, and they loved it. The show will premiere at the Old Globe in San Diego in September, and judging from the reception at the hush-hush readings, it’s headed to New York in 2020.

“It’s got the bells and whistles and charm of the movie, and Cameron seems to have taken to this assignment like a duck to water,” one of those who attended the reading tells me.

Crowe wrote the script (adapted from his screenplay), and I’m told is overseeing the whole thing. Tom Kitt, who won the Pulitzer for “Next to Normal,” has written the score — except for some of the famous songs the show will retain from the 2000 movie, including Elton John’s 1972 “Tiny Dancer.”

“There is no way you could do the show without that song, and it’s used very effectively,” a source says.

“Almost Famous” is about Crowe’s experiences covering rock bands in the ’70s as he tried to make his way into journalism and get his first cover story for Rolling Stone.

He got that cover, made that story into a movie, and is now controlling everything about the Broadway show. He is, as the late William Goldman wrote in “The Season,” the “muscle” and nobody makes a move without consulting him.

“He is hands on, all the time, on this,” a source says.

Crowe invited a couple of friends to see the reading: Graham Nash and David Crosby of, um, Crosby, Stills and Nash. Stills (Stephen) couldn’t get there, but he lives in San Diego, so I’m told he will be there at the Old Globe opening.

The musical follows the movie closely: A teenage reporter tries to break into big-time journalism by following a rock band, Stillwater, on the road. Kitt, I’m told, has written some very good, ’70s-style songs for the band to play. But then he switches gears to write some lovely ballads for the characters. Penny Lane (Kate Hudson in the movie) sings a new song called “Morocco,” and the writer’s mother sings a song called “Rock Stars Have Stolen My Son.”

“Those are the two standout songs, and they are really, really good,” a source says.

The standout performers from these backers’ auditions were Anika Larsen and Colin Donnell.

Larsen, who was terrific as songwriter Cynthia Weil in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” plays the young writer’s mother. Donnell, as the lead singer in the Stillwater band, is said to be sensational. He appeared on Broadway several times before heading off to Los Angeles to be Dr. Conner Rhodes in some NBC medical drama called “Chicago Med.”

Welcome back to Broadway where you belong, Colin.


And welcome back to Broadway, my old friend, Barry Manilow! Barry will be, as they say, “in residence” at the Lunt-Fontanne from July 26 to Aug. 18. The last time he was on Broadway, in 2013, he sold out every show.

I took my sister to see him. She’d been a big fan when we were kids and he released the classic album, “Barry Manilow Live.”

She thought she’d outgrown Barry, but as soon as he walked onstage and sang “Can’t Smile Without You,” she was on her feet, waving her green glow stick and singing along with every song.

She’s my date for Barry’s opening at the Lunt.

You can hear Michael Riedel weekdays on “Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning” on WOR radio 710.