“Rocky,” the Oscar-winning
film of 1976, and its sequels have made billions of dollars. Sylvester Stallone
has written and starred in all of them.
Now, an amazing musical version, co -written by Thomas Meehan and
Stallone, has taken the Broadway stage by storm. Yes, this is a verifiable hit!
Yes, this could have been
corny and tacky. But it is not. It is an example of what a show can be when all
the elements are in sync. Stephen Flaherty's music and vocal arrangements and
Lynn Flaherty's lyrics are superbly clear and melodic. Sung by Andy Karl as a
perfect Tony award nominee as Rocky Balboa, the down and out fighter, who is
skimming the bottom of life, and Margo Seibert, making her lovely debut as
Adrian, a mousy girl who works in a pet store, the songs like “My Nose Ain't
Broken,” “Raining,” “The Flip Side” and “Fight from the Heart” all in the first act, tell the story with
love and humor. With natural charm and an excellent voice, Karl underplays the
part of Rocky, who idolizes Rocky Marciano and owns two turtles, named Cuff and
Link. The only change in the story is Paulie, who is played quite differently
but very well by Danny Mastrogiorgio.
David Berreca's Scenic
Design, everything from Rocky's shabby apartment to Paulie's meat locker hung
with slabs of bloody carcasses, from the pet store to the fighters' ring, is
drawn authentically but dramatically. Brilliant lighting by Christopher
Akerlind with Costumes by David Zinn, Jeremy Chernick's Special Effects, and
Video by Dan Sully and Pablo Molina complete the package. Bringing this all
together is the director, Alex Timbers, aided by Choreographers Staven Hoggett and
Kelly Devine. This is a lesson in
staging a show, where the intimate scenes are compact and focused and the
larger scenes fill the stage, both moving and flowing smoothly.
Let me salute Dakin Matthews;
he plays Mickey, who runs the gym, where Rocky has trained. Matthews is a
character actor whom we have seen and enjoyed in countless productions on
Broadway, in tiny stages Off Broadway and in film. Here, he turns in a great
performance, singing one of the best numbers in the show “In the Ring.” In it, Mickey describes his life devoted to
being a fighter and begs Rocky to hire him. Even though Mickey is considered a
tough guy, the composer has chosen to write this as a waltz, adding to the touching
ambiance of the song.
Terrence Archie is a
well-muscled and gleaming Apollo Creed, the undefeated boxer, who Rocky decides
to fight. To its credit, the boxing is held to a minimum during the two and one
half hours, but I assure you the actual fight is presented at the finale in
such an exciting way, it is unforgettable.
“Rocky” at the Winter Garden, a fabulous time in the theater.