World-premiere musical ‘Almost Famous’ tops Old Globe Theatre’s just-announced 2019-20 season
A world-premiere musical based on an Oscar-winning rock ‘n’ roll saga written by one of San Diego’s favorite sons?
It’s all happening.
Fans of “Almost Famous” will recognize that line from the 2000 Cameron Crowe movie, inspired by the writer-director’s own experiences in the 1970s as a boy-wonder journalist for Rolling Stone magazine.
And if you’re among them, you’ll probably be thrilled to hear that the Old Globe Theatre is staging the debut production of the film’s musical-stage adaptation — written by Crowe himself and set to a mix of classic hits and new songs by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Tom Kitt.
The project, set for September, almost certainly represents the first time that a theater originating a movie-based musical is actually mentioned in the film being adapted; that’s the case with “Almost Famous,” which name-drops the Old Globe, Crowe’s hometown theater and a place he frequented with his mom as a kid.
Now the Balboa Park institution puts up the long-in-development show as the marquee entry in a just-announced 2019-20 season that includes yet another world-premiere musical, a world-premiere play, and five works getting their West Coast premieres; plus a San Diego spin on a new Christmas show, the latest edition of the Globe for All touring Shakespeare program, and the local directing debut of new Globe/University of San Diego graduate-program leader Jesse J. Perez.
(As we said: It’s all happening.)
“Almost Famous” and the other shows are being announced as the Globe’s big fall musical from last year, “The Heart of Rock and Roll” (based on the music of Huey Lewis), comes off a workshop in New York, with a continued eye toward Broadway.
While it’s too early to talk Broadway prospects for “Almost Famous,” the Globe does have a long track record of sending shows to New York, so it’s not unreasonable to think a Broadway production could be in the musical’s future.
Here’s a further look at that project and the other shows on the Globe’s 2019-20 slate:
“Almost Famous,” Sept. 13 to Oct. 20 (opens Sept. 27), Shiley Stage: As a kid in San Diego, Cameron Crowe was enthralled with rock ‘n’ roll; he struck up a friendship with music critic and onetime local Lester Bangs, and began writing for the former San Diego Door and, soon enough, Rolling Stone. “Almost Famous,” which starred Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup and Patrick Fugit, and won Crowe a screenwriting Oscar, is a kind of love letter to that time in his life.
Now Jeremy Herrin directs the stage adaptation, with choreography by Lorin Latarro of Broadway’s “Waitress” and other shows. Crowe is credited with book and lyrics, while Tom Kitt — whose credits include “High Fidelity,” “Bring It On” and the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning “Next to Normal” — contributes additional songs.
Globe artistic director Barry Edelstein says Crowe has “just done an amazing job turning (the movie) into a musical. He and Tom Kitt both have found places for songs to go that make total sense and drive the story forward, without losing the quirkiness or intimacy of the story. So I’m hugely excited about it.”
He adds that Crowe is “the nicest guy. And you know, brilliant, a genius, with encyclopedic knowledge of rock music.” And the musical is “a San Diego story,” derived from a movie that not only mentions the Globe but has opening shots of Ocean Beach and Balboa Park’s Prado.
One very important note: Yes, “Tiny Dancer” is in the show. (The Elton John song figures into perhaps the movie’s most famous scene, aboard a band’s tour bus.)
“Jitney,” Jan. 18 to Feb. 23, 2020 (opens Jan. 23, 2020), Shiley Stage: August Wilson, the late, great chronicler of African-American life, had significant ties to the Globe, which staged pre-Broadway productions of three of his plays about 30 years ago. Now the theater circles back to “Jitney,” part of Wilson’s epic, 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle.”
Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs the piece, whose 2017 Broadway staging won a Tony Award as best revival. It tells the story of cab drivers striving to hold their lives together amid rapid social change in 1970s Pittsburgh.
The play comes to town as part of a mini-tour of regional theaters; Edelstein was impressed by Santiago-Hudson’s work with the piece at New York’s Manhattan Theatre Club, and lobbied to bring it here. Adding to the importance of “Jitney,” Edelstein notes, is that it’s the work in which Wilson said he found his voice as a playwright.
“Little Women,” March 14 to April 19, 2020, Shiley Stage: Kate Hamill’s adaptation of the much-loved Louisa May Alcott novel is a co-production with Dallas Theatre Center. Hamill’s, whose adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” will soon go up at San Diego’s Cygnet Theatre, is known for her savvy touch with classics.
Edelstein calls the piece “very beautifully produced” and (in a good way) “costume-y,” and praises the way Hamill subtly gets at contemporary themes that resonate in Alcott’s text. Sarah Rasmussen directs.
“The Gardens of Anuncia,” May 8 to June 14, 2020 (opens May 15, 2020), Shiley Stage: The Globe commissioned this world-premiere musical by the much-admired composer Michael John Lachiusa, a five-time Tony nominee who was last at the theater with the Edelstein-directed “Rain.”
“Gardens” is inspired by the life story of the show’s own director-choreographer, the Broadway luminary Graciela Daniele, who directed the original New York production of “Once On This Island.” (She was last at the Globe in 2005 with “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life”; her most recent Broadway credit is as choreographer on “The Visit,"which likewise starred Rivera.)
The new work focuses on Daniele’s girlhood years spent in Argentina during the tumultuous reign of Juan Perón.
Edelstein says the work essentially is about “how a young woman finds her identity, and specifically her identity as an artist,” as it weaves in stories of the strong women in her life. And there is “amazing beauty” in the score of a kind that Edelstein says those who saw “Rain” will recognize.
“Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!,” Nov. 3 to Dec. 29, 2020 (opens Nov. 16), Shiley Stage: This will be the first production of the longtime holiday favorite to open since Audrey Geisel, widow of “Grinch” creator Dr. Seuss, died last December; Edelstein says the Globe will pay tribute to the major theater benefactor during the run of the show.
The versatile James Vásquez returns to direct the family-friendly show as it heads into its 22nd season. The run will again include a sensory-friendly performance for those with special needs and their families.
“Noura,” Sept. 20 to Oct. 20 (opens Sept. 26), Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre: The play by Heather Raffo — an alumna of the esteemed Old Globe / University of San Diego Shiley Graduate Theatre Program — gets its West Coast premiere at the Globe.
“Noura” is loosely based on the Ibsen classic “A Doll’s House,” but Edelstein says it’s “very much an immigrant story,” set in the Chaldean Christian community. The work had a successful off-Broadway run last year at Playwrights Horizons.
“Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show,” Nov. 23 to Dec. 24 (opens Nov. 27), White Theatre: Following on last year’s world premiere of “Clint Black’s Looking for Christmas,” the Globe brings another holiday-minded work into the intimate White Theatre space, with the West Coast premiere of Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen’s locally customized take on the Dickens classic.
Greenberg, who directed the Globe’s world premiere of “The Heart of Rock and Roll” last year, returns to stage this one.
“Hurricane Diane,” Feb. 8 to March 8, 2020 (opens Feb. 13, 2020), White Theatre: The new piece from Pulitzer finalist Madeleine George (“The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence”) revolves around the return to Earth of the Greek god Dionysus, masquerading as a gardener named Diane.
“This is the piece that is the most out-there of our lineup,” says Edelstein, speaking of the surprises that pop up in this unconventional comedy.
“Faceless,” March 28 to April 26, 2020 (opens April 2, 2020), White Theatre: Selina Fillinger’s play, getting its West Coast premiere, was developed in the Globe’s Powers New Voices Festival.
Edelstein says the piece “plays like gangbusters”; it’s a propulsive courtroom drama that also is an exploration of Muslim identity, and Fillinger’s storytelling chops remind Edelstein of “West Wing” scribe and playwright Aaron Sorkin. The director is Globe returnee Gaye Taylor Upchurch, here most recently with “The Blameless.”
“What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” May 28 to June 28, 2020 (opens June 4, 2020), White Theatre: Edelstein is a longtime friend and champion of the novelist and playwright Nathan Englander, and previously directed his drama “The Twenty-Seventh Man” for the Globe.
Now Edelstein directs the world premiere of this comedy-laced work that deals with the legacy of the Holocaust in an oblique and personal way. (It’s based in part on a game Englander and his sister used to play.)
The piece employs the time-honored setup of a dinner party involving two couples; along the way it “touches on big ideas about Jewish life,” says Edelstein, “and also very topically on the relationship between American Jews and Israel.”
Globe for All tour: “The Winter’s Tale,” Oct. 29 to Nov. 17 (opens Oct. 31): The ever-expanding initiative to take Shakespeare into underserved communities heads into its seventh edition with the Bard’s complex story of love lost and found. Daniel Jáquez of San Diego’s Latinx-focused TuYo Theatre directs.
“Twelfth Night,” Nov. 2-10, Old Globe/USD: Jesse J. Perez, the new head of the nationally renowned Shiley graduate acting program, directs the beloved Bard comedy.
Tickets for all the 2019-20 productions will be available initially only via season subscription. Call (619) 234-5623 or go to theoldglobe.org for details.