This Broadway Star Brings Iconic Mom Elaine Miller To Broadway In The New Musical ‘Almost Famous’

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When Anika Larsen’s agent called her about the possibility of originating a juicy role in a new musical, he told her something he never said before. “He said, ‘I want you to be as excited about this as I am,” shares Larsen.

Then he told her about the project. A new musical based on Cameron Crowe’s beloved film Almost Famous. And Larsen would take on the role of Elaine Miller, who Frances McDormand famously played in the movie.

“I said, ‘Done. Sold. I would do a musicalized version of any role she’s ever played. Frances McDormand is my favorite actor of all time.” says Larsen who was nominated for a Tony award for her portrayal of songwriter Cynthia Weil in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. “Frances McDormand always plays people who are compelling, interesting and possess integrity. I knew it would be a role I would be proud to play.”

A week later after signing on Larsen developed an uncomfortable feeling about portraying Elaine and couldn’t figure out why. “And then I realized it was because I felt trapped inside her performance. Why would I ever do anything different than her? She’s the best,” recalls Larsen. And then she had a kind of epiphany where she was able to separate her Elaine from Frances McDormand’s take on her in the film.

“I had to realize that the scope of work is different for me. What Frances does so masterfully is tell you volumes with a look. And my job is to sing those volumes in songs,” observes Larsen. “We’re not reenacting the movie on stage. It’s a retelling of Cameron’s life and my source material is [Cameron Crowe’s mother] Alice Crowe.” As Larsen shares, she asks Crowe about how his mother would respond. “I’m playing that Elaine Miller and not the Elaine Miller from the screenplay,” she says. “And that freed me up to help to make her my own.”

Part of making Elaine her own was seeing all the qualities in Elaine that she adored. “I love that she is a strong, fierce, unearth, unorthodox mother with convictions who is not afraid to impart those qualities to her children,” says Larsen. “I had a mother like that, and I aspire to be a mother like that. She is flawed, like all mothers.”

At the helm of Almost Famous is the creative dream team. Cameron Crowe penned the musical’s book and lyrics, Tom Kitt wrote music and lyrics. The show is directed by Jeremy Herrin with choreography by Sarah O’Gleby. In addition to Larsen, the production also stars Chris Wood, Solea Pfeiffer, Drew Gehling, Rob Colletti, and Casey Likes.

For the cast and crew to get to play in the Cameron Crowe sandbox was a gift beyond measure. “I marvel at Cameron’s ability. It seems like he’s writing people’s everyday feelings. Just humans talking. But it is so infused with insight that makes you feel, seen and understood,” observes Larsen.

“I love that Cameron’s writing is an extension of him,” shares Kitt who has been deeply inspired by Crowe’s artistry over the years. “The care that he shows in his work and his belief in humanity and the desire to make people feel something substantial is at the heart of who he is as a person. He is a poet of humanity in our everyday.”

In the show, William Miller is 15-year-old rock and roll-obsessed kid with a dream to write about the music and bands he adores. His life goes topsy turvy when he is hired by Rolling Stone magazine to cover an emerging band by going on the road with them. As William’s protective mother, Elaine is tasked with figuring out how to let her son outstretch his proverbial wings so he can fly on his own terms. She also has to make sure that he can still graduate, stay drug-free and keep his wits while riding with this rock and roll circus.

For Larsen Almost Famous is a musical about family. “The family you’re given, the family you struggle with and the family you choose,” she says. “It’s about finding your tribe and coming together.”

As Larsen points out, the show’s themes about coming together is especially poignant now. “It’s about the communion we were lacking and aching for during Covid-19. It’s about the ability to come back into a room together and experience something in the same space,” she observes.

For Larsen “Everybody’s Coming Together” is especially meaningful now. “When we sing that song how good it feels for everybody to be able to come together and sing and feel together,” she says. “It’s just glorious.”