Theatre Review: Rocky
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Written by Sylvester Stallone and Thomas Meehan
Directed by Alex Timbers
Music by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Starring Andy Karl, Margo Seibert, Terence Archie, Dakin Matthews, Danny Mastrogiorgio
Winter Garden Theatre
The Shubert Organization
Premiered March 13, 2014

A southpaw underdog wants to make it as a big time fighter, but he just can’t catch a break. He gets kicked out of his locker at the local gym, run by Mickey. He’s just a little too soft for his job as a loan shark’s muscle (won’t break bones). And the girl he’s crushing on won’t give him the time of day. That is, until Apollo Creed unexpectedly needs a new opponent when his original opponent for the world heavyweight title drops out because of an injury.

Ever the businessman, he wants to fight one of Philly’s own, a nobody that gets a shot at the title. He chooses “The Italian Stallion,” Rocky Balboa. Rocky wins over shy pet shop girl Adrian with a little help from her brother Paulie, gains Mickey as a trainer, has a training montage complete with running up those famous steps, and wows everyone in the climactic fight.

Rocky the musical follows almost the same story as the first Rocky film. At first, hearing Andy Karl mutter in his eerily Sylvester Stallone-like voice then burst into song is quite disconcerting. But his voice is powerful and the songs written echo the message of perseverance, endurance, and of course, love.

Margo Seibert channels a young Talia Shire to recreate wallflower Adrian, who slowly blossoms with Rocky’s love. There are some subtle differences in the story. A girlfriend for Paulie is added to move Adrian’s storyline. Paulie himself is made more attractive and not as sleazy as our much-loved Burt Young.

The sets are gritty and authentic. They move on and off the stage in little boxes. Meat (ok–fake meat) actually comes down from the ceiling during Paulie’s work scenes. Most of the story follows the movie, right up to the last fight. At that moment, audience members are moved onto the stage, so the boxing ring can roll right out into the orchestra section. The rest of the audience surrounding the ring stands up and chants “Rocky! Rocky!” as the two contenders come down the aisles like a real match.

Rocky is an exciting time, faithful to the beloved and iconic film.

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