The old adage “right place, right time” can lead to all sorts of happy accidents in life. From landing a job to meeting a soulmate, one never knows where a simple twist of fate might lead them. For Casey Likes, being in the right place/time (and being massively talented) lead to a dream coming true.
“I was in my [Chandler] high school production of Les Misérables when I won the ASU Gammage High School Theater Award,” Likes explains. “That sent me to the Jimmy Awards in New York. The people from Almost Famous were watching when I performed there. I met Cameron Crowe at my first callback in LA a week after the Jimmy Awards. We ended up really vibing off each other. Two weeks later, I was in rehearsal with him.”
And thus, Casey Likes went from being a hometown theater kid to originating a lead role on Broadway.
Almost Famous had been turned into a musical, adapted from the 2000 film version. After doing an out-of-town opening in San Diego in 2019 with Likes playing the lead role of William, it was scheduled to hit Broadway in 2020. It finally opened in New York City in November of 2022.
Likes grew up performing in local shows, starting with A Christmas Carol, where he played Tiny Tim at just 3 years old. It was an Actor’s Theatre production at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix alongside his mom, Chandler High School Theater Director Stephanie Likes. A case of like mother, like son, Likes is now on Broadway, following in his mom’s footsteps.
“My mom got me into theater,” he says. “She was on Broadway in Les Mis as a double cover for Eponine and Cosette. She didn’t force me—she left the door open. She’s so great. She raised my sister and me practically by herself with the help of my grandparents. It’s an amazing story that she accomplished so many dreams at a young age, and now she’s giving back to the next generation. She’s had really talented kids come through her program. She knows how to direct, and she knows theater. How many theater teachers can say they’ve actually done Broadway?”
From Tiny Tim to roles like Jack Kelly in Newsies and The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, both at Greasepaint Theater, Likes has been wowing audiences for two decades. He attributes his current success not only to his mom, but to the local theaters that shaped him and helped build a love of performing. Both Greasepaint Theater in Scottsdale and Chandler High School have been churning out incredible talent lately, with Likes shining especially bright among them.
When asked what other local kids with Broadway dreams should do to follow in his footsteps, Likes says humbly, “I’m so honored to be asked. The people who make it the farthest are the people who don’t stop working. They are always taking voice lessons, always working on their craft. The people who lost it are the people who sit back on their talent.”
And sitting back and waiting for Broadway to reopen was something Likes definitely didn’t do. In the time between Almost Famous opening in San Diego and Broadway, he even picked up a couple of movie roles. Keep an eye out for him as Gene Simmons from the band Kiss in Spinning Gold (alongside Jeremy Jordan, the original Broadway Jack Kelly in Newsies) and as a monster-fighting young man in a new horror film called Dark Harvest.
But for now, it’s time to focus on Almost Famous and to enjoy the years Likes might have spent in college by making pseudo-college memories with his cast and new friends. And although he still thinks of Arizona as home, he knows this opportunity is one most kids only dream of.
Likes turned 21 on Christmas Day and is too superstitious to voice what other dreams he still has, but is instead pouring himself into this moment and this role.
“I hadn’t seen the movie at all,” he says when asked about Almost Famous. “My mom made me watch it. I thought what he [Patrick Fugit as William] did in the movie was perfect. I wanted to respect it as much as I possibly could. Early on, it was clear to the creatives that we wanted to find something that was uniquely mine. By using the connective tissue of loving music and being a fan, we kinda found something that made you feel the way Patrick felt—the way Patrick made audiences feel.”
The story follows William as he tours the country with a fictitious band called Stillwater, writing a cover story for Rolling Stone at only 15 years old.
Who would Likes have liked to follow at that age?
“Green Day,” he says with no hesitation. “I’d actually still want to follow them now.”
So many big things are happening for Likes that it won’t be long before he’s a household name. Like his favorite band might say and from everyone back home, one hopes he will have the time of his life as it happens.