It appears to be a case of history repeating itself, Rocky the musical has proved to be another win for Sylvester Stallone. The star made cinematic history and back in 1976 with his self-penned film with himself in the starring role of the broken down boxer who defies odds to emerge victorious from his bout with boxer Apollo Creed. The soundtrack, with its almost iconic Eye of the Tiger theme song and the images of Rocky Balboa training by punching sides of beef and running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the song Gonna Fly Now almost guaranteed the film’s success. Now the film has made its transition not only to Broadway, but as a musical version of the movie that launched Sylvester Stallone’s career.
The film-star spent 14 years to bring his creation to the stage. At the show’s red carpet event on Thursday, he celebrated the musical’s successful open in the U.S. The show first opened in Hamburg, Germany back in 2012 and it boasted a full-sized replica of a boxing ring. The 67 year-old star explained at the Broadway event that he always saw the film and its characters as being musical in nature. He said that while writing it, he envisioned Martin Scorsese and Mean Streets as well as West Side Story which, as Stallone sees it, are full of poetic “street” characters.
This musical version of the Rocky Balboa character’s personal battle continues the film’s theme of an amateur boxer who faces heavyweight champion Apollo Creed and falls in love with Adrian, his friend’s sister. According to critics who watched the musical version of Rocky this is another win for Sylvester Stallone. This time, however, he is not featured in the starring role and Talia Shire is not Adrian. The young actors who play Rocky and his sweetheart are Andy Karl, as the amateur boxer and Margo Seibert, who is a newcomer to Broadway, made her debut as the underdog character’s girl.
While the music of the play is not causing many to sing its praises, the climatic fight scene at the end has received a lot of attention. Clocked at 16 minutes the fight is being lauded as the best part of the Broadway show. With production costs equaling $16.5 million and, according to Variety, the show’s audience are moved from the front few rows in the theater to “play” the audience on stage who watch the fight the show is an obvious hit. However, this up close and personal “immersion” does not set well with AP theater reviewer Mark Kennedy.
Most reviewers who experienced the show reported that the audience, many of whom were celebrities and Stallones’ peers, roared their approval at the sets, lighting and choreography of this musical version of Rocky. Sylvester Stallone may have another win on his hands, but he can only take “partial” credit. The star co-wrote the play and it is not known whether he had much to do with the musical numbers featured in the show. While most agree that the climatic fight at the end allows the audience to leave the theater on a high note, no one will be humming any of the “new” songs in the stage version. Eye of the Tiger and the Bill Conti favorite are still crowd pleasers but the new songs are being described as bland. With so much riding on the Apollo Creed fight it comes as no real surprise that the music is secondary. At least Stallone is overjoyed at his show’s success.
By Michael Smith