Number one is rest. I have a really good quote to pull actually from one of my cast mates, Libby Winters. She said roughly paraphrasing, “Nobody wants to talk about how hard Broadway is, but one of the hardest things that makes Broadway so hard is that you can’t talk about how hard it is. It’s really difficult work.” You are on stage for two and a half hours per show, eight times per week in lifts and heels and expensive costumes and you’re sprinting around backstage doing quick wig changes, and it requires an immense amount of physical labor. You need to know your body’s limits and give yourself time and space to recuperate.

As part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing actor Rob Colletti.

Rob Colletti is currently making his Broadway debut in the musical “Almost Famous,” inspired by the acclaimed feature film. The Guardian called his character “the show’s most consistent comic relief.” The show is written by Cameron Crowe, the director and writer of the original film. Rob portrays ‘Lester Bangs,’ the legendary music writer for Rolling Stone which the late Philip Seymore Hoffman originated in the film version. The show follows William Miller, an aspiring music journalist based on Crowe’s real life, who is hired by Rolling Stone to go on the road with an up-and-coming band. Directed by Tony Award nominee Jeremy Herrin and with music by Pulitzer Prize and two-time Tony Award winner Tom Kitt, “Almost Famous” is currently live at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

While the stage adaptation is similar to the movie, the role of Lester Bangs has been extended for the musical. In the movie, Lester provides William with advice and inspiration in the linear manner Crowe experienced it in 1973, but in the stage adaptation, Lester’s guidance acts as William’s conscience throughout the show through the use of comedic relief. On their relationship and Colletti’s portrayal, Crowe has said, ““Rob was an instant knockout for me in his first audition as Lester Bangs. Our collaboration continued from that first day as we worked on the scenes, and I watched him bring his authenticity, humor and mighty soul to our story. In so many ways, he is the very spirit of Almost Famous.”

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series, Rob! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and lived sort of an all-American life. I was like lower middle class, but my parents were good about taking care of me and I got involved in baseball at a really young age. I actually thought I was going to play baseball through college, and that was my hope and expectation, but I expanded my interests and started getting into other activities. I eventually was coerced into auditioning for a play and got cast, and really loved it and. The rest is history.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I guess I knew in high school that I loved the arts and committed internally to pursuing a life in the arts, before I even went to college. I studied theatre, and have been a musician for like 25 years. I was a sketch artist for a while. Every medium of art has always pulled me in. It’s magnetized me. So it felt a bit like destiny. I never really struggled or wrestled with the decision. It always felt right and I followed that gut instinct from a really young age.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are many people. I would not be where I am today without my mother. She’s the most supportive person in my entire life. I actually wanted to quit acting for a bit in my mid-twenties because I was a broke artist living in Chicago not making any money, and struggling with that reality. I was working at the desk at a gym and delivering Potbelly sandwiches and just scraping by whatever I could doing freelance work. My mother talked me off the ledge. She was like, you’ll never be happy. I know you and she always kept me on course. Whenever I’m feeling down, she’s always there to lift me up.

My high school theatre teacher, Carolyn Brady. She is sort of the reason that I even found what I’m doing with my life.

All my art teachers. I’m such a big proponent of the arts education community. All of the amazing creative team members that have given me opportunities over the years and helped me be the performer that I’ve been for them. All of the musicians and people that I’ve collaborated with. The arts are such a collaborative community that I really don’t think you can have great fulfilling success unless you do so on the shoulders of your fellow artists and offer your shoulders for them as well.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

That’s so true. It really can be a great teacher and it was. When I was in high school, I did pretty much every show. We did three plays a year. My first was the third play of the year in my freshman year and then I did every show after that for the rest of high school, say for one, that I did get. I got a small part because I had a bad audition. I went in really overconfident. It was my third year of high school. I had been in a bunch of plays and I was very confident that I was now an upperclassman and I was going to get one of the leading roles of the show. We were doing Les Misérables and I wanted to be Jean Valjean. I walked in and I did not prepare, and I absolutely crapped the bed. My voice was changing at the time and I had to sing Bring Him Home, and I did not do well. I did not get the part and it was so bad that my theatre teacher pulled me aside the next day and said I know you were better than that. I can’t give you that part. I’m still going to put you in the show, but I have to reward the people who prepared and you didn’t.

I had a lot of fun doing the show, but it was an incredible learning experience and I’m glad that it happened at that age when I was young because ever since then I have never gone into an audition without being-off book and fully prepared to deliver. I’m grateful that I didn’t get that part then, because I didn’t deserve it. I was not prepared. It was a great lesson and incredibly important for me.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Almost Famous on Broadway is definitely the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. Working with Cameron Crowe and Tom Kitt on anything would be a dream come true and to get to work with them on this has been wildly exciting. In my spare time, I’m a writer and I’m writing my own material. I’m obviously doing a show on Broadway right now which is the dream, right? I mean, every actor who does theatre hopes to get to this stage at some point and I’m here, and it’s surreal. I actually was texting with Tom Kitt last week about how grateful I am that he put me in this show, and that every day at the theatre my little Act II break, I’m pinching myself. I can’t believe I’m there. It’s wild.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?

I get asked this question a lot by young artists. I try to do youth outreach quite a bit. I did School of Rock several years ago and really was fulfilled by working with kids. Seeing young artists have a space and an opportunity to flourish and become the best versions of themselves reminds me of what I was like when I was their age. So I always try to do that.

What advice would you give to people who know that it’s a tough industry and are worried about getting into it? From my perspective, what I’ve experienced in my life, there really isn’t like a knock down, drag out, easy answer to that. It is totally subjective to your personality type. I will say that it is known for being extremely cut-throat for a reason. Less than 1% of the people who pursue this line of work can earn a living doing it. For every yes I’ve received, I’ve gotten 250 no’s. Rejection is a part of the process, and unfortunately, you do have to have the stomach for that. It is a character building career in a way that so few others are. You learn a true sense of self-worth in such a unique and sparkling way.

There’s no better feeling than getting the phone call that you got it. But you do have to be prepared for no which happens a lot. I would say the ultimate barometer is knowing your heart, if you feel love for it. It’s not the type of work that you can do because it’s a job. It’s not a safe bet. It’s extremely risky to follow art in this world. The American economy is a capitalist place, and there isn’t really a business foundation or a social structure to protect artists. So if you’re going to do it, you need to know that chances are you’ll need another job for a while until you get to the point where you can afford to live off of the work that you’re doing as a performer.

You need to do it because you love it. It needs to speak to your soul and if it does, the down times are ultimately worth it. Like I said, I almost walked away from it for that very reason. Truly, it is incredibly soul crushing at times, but at the same time, it is wildly uplifting and it is the stuff that dreams are made of. All this to say, if you have the passion in your heart and you know that you won’t be happy if you’re not doing it, that’s when you know you should do it. Not everybody has opportunities handed to them on a silver platter. You have to really work. You’re competing for one job with thousands of other people. So, if you know that and you still feel that yearning, the passionate drive towards trying to accomplish it, you should do it. But if it’s something that you are fearful of and don’t foresee yourself being able to maintain, it’s important to recognize that too.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theatre or Live Performances” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Number one is rest. I have a really good quote to pull actually from one of my cast mates, Libby Winters. She said roughly paraphrasing, “Nobody wants to talk about how hard Broadway is, but one of the hardest things that makes Broadway so hard is that you can’t talk about how hard it is. It’s really difficult work.” You are on stage for two and a half hours per show, eight times per week in lifts and heels and expensive costumes and you’re sprinting around backstage doing quick wig changes, and it requires an immense amount of physical labor. You need to know your body’s limits and give yourself time and space to recuperate.

Number two is water, lots and lots of hydration. Being a Broadway performer is incredibly taxing for a number of reasons. But one of the ways that is really impactful is your voice and particularly if you’re in a show, a musical that involves singing, It can be very easy to overuse your vocal chords. Like any other muscle in your body, they need rest and they also need nourishment and water is the best way to do that.

The third would be: resolve. You need to know that you’re going out on stage every show eight times a week in front of a thousand plus people and you have to be fearless and be able to commit to what you’re doing.

You have to have the ability to study. One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever been given was an interview with actor Christopher Plumer. He was asked, how does one study to become a great actor? He looked right back at the interviewer and said, “Well, you just said the word didn’t you? Study. You have to know your lines and your techniques so well that you can access them in the moment, truly, and without hesitation in front of people watching you and judging you while you’re doing it”.

The fifth would be, healthy fuel. You can’t live off McDonald’s while you’re doing eight shows a week. I spend at least two or three hours every week doing meal prep to have food at home that I can bring to work. You certainly don’t want to get bubble guts while you’re out on stage performing. Your body needs protein and it needs nutrients that it can utilize as you are performing without making you feel weak or dizzy. That allows you to replenish in the same way that you would after a workout.

For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theatre performance are different from the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?

I don’t know if the skill sets you need are different so much as how you implement them is different. I would say the major difference between film and TV is that you don’t have any close-ups. So when you’re on camera, you have the ability to internalize what you are doing with your performance, and the camera can read that for you and deliver it to the screen via editing. It’s funny, I was talking about this with the director of our show, Jeremy Herron about a month ago. It’s funny, we pay film and TV actors millions of dollars to be stars in movies because they go on billboards and it sells on demand and to DVD and theatres. Theatre artists are often hardly paid. But the truth is, film and TV is incredibly difficult. In order to deliver a really excellent world class performance, you have to be able to deliver in a really short period of time. On stage you have to do that in, but in a different way eight times a week for a year and people on stage are paid a fraction of what film and TV stars make in most cases.

I can go on and watch Almost Famous the movie right now, and I’m going to see the exact same thing that everybody saw the day it was released twenty-two years ago, but there are little live moments in the theatre that will always change and that’s what makes it so exciting. You are doing a different performance intentionally eight times a week for as long as you do the show.

Can you please give us your favorite film or book? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I was very moved by The Godfather when I was young. It was sort of the first movie I watched in high school that made me say, oh, that’s the kind of acting I want to do. I’m an enormous fan of artists who work on them. My favorite films generally include Cate Blanchet, Meryl Streep, Robin Williams, Denzel Washington, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was truly one of my mentors for my entire performance. I’m playing the role that he did in the movie.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

You can follow me at @rob.colletti on Instagram. You can also come see Almost Famous at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York City. We’re like in love with each other. We have such a great vibe, and we think that it reads on stage. If you come I promise you’ll leave smiling.

This was very meaningful, Rob. Thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.