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Review: ROCKY

March 21st, 2014

Yo, Rocky. You done good, kid.

Andy Karl in "ROCKY" (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

Andy Karl in “ROCKY” (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

It takes a lot for a down-on-his-luck guy from Philly to pull off a $16.5 million musical but you got heart, and that goes a long way. But then I was wonderin’… why are you singing “My Nose Ain’t Broken” in the first place?

I get it. You’ve got more on your mind than seven years of hard luck and your best buddy’s sister blowing you off. You wanna be a champ. You’ve got heart. But that Adrian, she’s caught your eye and you can’t shake it.

An odd one, that Adrian. Tough life. Parents dead, alcoholic brother—no wonder she shuts down any time you get close to her. But you’re a softy, Rocky, and who can resist a guy with a goofy grin and two pet turtles who’s built like a brick shithouse? She can’t.

Margo Seibert and Andy Karl in "ROCKY" (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

Margo Seibert and Andy Karl in “ROCKY” (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

You two make a nice couple. Real nice. Too bad her brother Paulie messes things up. I guess that’s what the bottle will to ya if you’re not careful. Nothing like a guy throwing a turkey out the window or trampling a Christmas tree to let everyone know who’s in charge.

But you respect your brawn, Rocky, and I appreciate that. Even as a henchman for the local bookie you manage to keep things civil. You save it for the ring… but only if you had one good fight in you.

Ding! Apollo Creed shows up and you’ve got the chance of a lifetime. Fight for the Heavyweight World Championship and you pocket $150K win or lose? What a deal. But nobody makes Rocky the fool and who wants to hop in the ring only to have their ass whooped on national television? Not you.

You train hard and your old coach, Mickey, who gave away your locker to give you some tough love says, “You gotta have a little respect for yourself. It’s a waste of a life, kid. A waste of a goddam life.” He’s good for ya, though. Not so much when he’s singin’—but still.

Training is tough, when those dozen or so sides of beef fly in from the rafters I know you mean business. But I’m thinkin that maybe I’ve taken too many hits to the head myself cuz all the sudden there’s two of you, then three… then the whole place is filled with dudes in gray hoodies running in place while video projections of Philly whiz by. But where is the real Rocky? I’m gettin’ lost. And why are you singin’ again?

Time for the big fight and you’re looking good. It’s like we’ve all died and gone to heaven—or is it Vegas? I can’t tell the difference. And what year is it? 1975? With all the TV coverage and video graphics I could swear I was watching ESPN, but you put up a good fight. Even if you lose in the ring, you win over the crowd. They even give you a standing ovation. Some of them have to stand because their seats were removed, but still.

I know what you’re gonna say, Mr. Italian Stallion. Love wins. And you’re right. No matter that you’ve taken a shiner and probably got your nose broken. You got the girl and a bunch of fans rooting for you.

The Winter Garden Theatre
1634 Broadway
Open ended run.

Wondering what the critics think of ROCKY? Take the leap!
While not the most memorable work from the songwriting team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, ROCKY does have heart, thanks in large part to lead actor Andy Karl. As down-on-his-luck Rocky Balboa, Karl embodies the essence of Sylvester Stallone’s on-screen portrayal while making the role his own. Saddled with a heavy-handed script and more than a few clunky lyrics, the audience falls in love with him from his first, “Yo, Adrian.”

As Rocky’s downtrodden love interest Adrian, Margo Seibert is well-suited for the Philly girl from a broken home. Their love interest, while not simmering, percolates at a steady pace as she grows from shy pet store employee to a young woman who finds her voice.

Directed by Alex Timbers, ROCKY feels more suited for Las Vegas than Broadway. Its multi-million set by Chris Barreca doesn’t leave much to the imagination. From incoming sides of beef and video projections of Philadelphia to a massive boxing ring that descends from the rafters, ROCKY is anything but subtle. Like the musical’s final climatic action, there’s no clear winner. Will ROCKY become a fan favorite? Or will it unravel like Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark? Only time will tell, but here’s what the critics have to say:

Along came “Rocky,” the kind of common-man fairy tale you thought they’d stopped making in the 1950s. (Remember “Marty”?) And on Oscar night, it beat out all those big-budget, arty doomsayers for best picture.

The creators of “Rocky” the musical — which features a book by Thomas Meehan and Mr. Stallone, and songs by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, with Alex Timbers as the director — have perhaps gone overboard in capitalizing on this legend. For what they have given us is a show that at first feels like such a flat liner that you can’t imagine that it could pull itself into any kind of competitive shape, even in a lackluster season for Broadway musicals.  The New York Times

Whatever your expectations going into “Rocky,” you come out rocking the technology.  No mystery about where the $16.5 million capital investment went in this musical iteration of the 1976 movie that made an iconic hero of Rocky Balboa. Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens no doubt took their pittance for scoring the book by Thomas Meehan and Sylvester Stallone. But the real coin for helmer Alex Timbers’ extravagant production went into the spectacular projections, sound and lighting effects, and into the scenic showpiece — a regulation-size boxing ring that puts the audience ringside for the big fight. Looks like it was worth every penny. Variety

Rocky, the new Broadway musical that has just opened at the Winter Garden Theatre, earns a lot of goodwill the easy way — by reproducing famous scenes from the 1976 Sylvester Stallone film on which it is based. But the show does more difficult things well, too. It breathes fresh life into a movie franchise that long ago descended into camp; puts singing boxers onstage without drawing snickers; and turns an unlikely film property into a Broadway musical with both spectacle and heart. The show is a crassly commercial exercise, aimed squarely at the tourist crowd and not the New York critics — who will most likely make fun of it. ButRocky the musical is no loser. It lands. Time

Terence Archie and Andy Karl in "Rocky" (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

Terence Archie and Andy Karl in “Rocky” (photo: Matthew Murphy) via The Broadway Blog.

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