And the winner by split decision...
It's hard not to like Rocky; he's a simple guy, he wears his heart on his sleeve, he is honest, caring and he knocks down the over-processed and glamorized symbolism of big, bad corporate America portrayed by Apollo Creed. But how did I feel about Rocky on Broadway, a new musical based on the well known film that catapulted Sylvester Stallone to fame? It's a split decision.
Technically, for me Rocky is a winner. The set design and transitions from scene to scene were some of the best I have ever seen. It captured the grittiness of Philadelphia and moved things effortlessly from one location to another. The finale of the show which takes place in a boxing ring was a little clunky with having to move the first six rows of Orchestra Center up to bleachers on the stage so the Ring could extend out into the house. Once the audience is settled the effect is great, it comes very close to simulating that real ring feel. I personally would rather sit in rows just after F Center so I wouldn't have to move to the back of the stage and would end up sitting "ringside" once the fight starts. And the fighting does work well. Watching this one comes to realize that boxing really is a dance between two fighters, albeit an extremely physical one. The choreography here is done very well and the slow-motion sequences really show the human form as a thing of beauty. The actors are in tremendous shape for this show.
The story stays true to the film and the songs for the most part are cute. There was no one song that really stuck with me or left me truly inspired. All the actors I felt were very strong with Andy Karl leading as Rocky. Mr. Karl presented a perfect live version of The Italian Stallion and this role while by no means his most challenging vocally is most likely the most physically demanding role he has taken. He looked strong and had all the perfect Balboa mannerisms and speech mastered. Margo Seibert was perfect as the mousy Adrian and has beautiful voice. Together they made a great couple and I believed their chemistry. Here is where I may get into trouble, Terence Archie as Apollo Creed. Something about his performance just bugged me. I think it was the over-the-top Broadway voice, because he played the pompous Creed well. Maybe the way he vocalized Creed as a pugilistic Ethel Merman was an artistic choice, but I wasn't crazy about it.
So do I recommend this show, yes, but with reservations. Know what you are getting into. This is a caricature of the award winning film, everything is a bit exaggerated for stage, especially Creed. Get seats just out side the the Golden Circle Seating or in the first couple rows of the Mezzanine for the best seats. Let me know what your decision is.