Theater Review - Rocky (NY)

“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.  

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