I want to take a moment to talk about Rocky. Yes, that Rocky, the musical based on the Sylvester Stallone movie.
I want to start off by stating right off the bat that I LOVED this show! And seeing it was one of the best experiences I’ve had at the theatre! I basically went in to this show blind. I had not yet seen the movie and I hadn’t really heard much about the musical. Why then did I see this particular show you might ask? Well, this was on my second trip to NYC (I was with my mom this time), in the summer of 2014. We weren’t sure what time we would get to the city, but had hoped to make it in time for a show (similar to the BroadwayCon trip this trip was Thursday-Monday). We did make it! So we went to TKTS to see what was available. We first tried for Mamma Mia (which I have yet to see live, but my mom had seen in Toronto) then Rock of Ages (which we had both seen in Toronto) but we didn’t really like the options for either of those. After looking at the board again and talking to one of the employees, we decided to give Rocky a try. It was the best decision of the whole trip (and it was a great trip all around)!
I think it actually worked out well for me not knowing the story going in to it. For instance I didn’t know if Rocky was going to win at the end or not. It was kind of refreshing and exciting to not know. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still exciting to see shows with which I am already familiar, but with this one, I liked not knowing.
The cast of Rocky was incredible. Andy Karl in the title role was amazing. Every part of his performance was excellent- singing, acting, physicality, all of it. Margo Seibert’s Adrian was wonderful and a perfect match for Karl’s Rocky. The fitness level of the entire cast was very impressive; it was very clearly a physically demanding show- the gym and training sequences, wow! It was also quite exciting for me to see Wallace Smith in the show too because I had actually seen him in Godspell on Broadway (Godspell having been my 2nd Broadway show). With Rocky just being my 3rd Broadway show it was my first experience actually seeing someone in two different Broadway musicals, and that was really cool for me! (If you haven’t yet figured it out, it’s little things like that that make me really happy!)
I also love the music in the show! Thank you Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty! My favourite numbers include “My Nose Ain’t Broken,” “Raining,” “Happiness,” and “Keep on Standing.”
Now, what I really want to tell you about from this show is the set! WOW (yes, a genuine, all-caps-deserving WOW!) I’d never seen anything like it before in my life! The whole show was filled with impressive set pieces including the pet shop with glowing fish tanks, the iconic stairs, the meat packing factory, and the use of screens really added to the effect, especially during the training sequences. But what really stood out above all else was the boxing ring for the final fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed.
I was sitting in the balcony for this show so I was seeing all of this from above. It started with the boxing ring moving out to the front edge of the stage and then a certain section of the audience in the orchestra (I couldn’t see how many rows it was from my seat, and there was too much going on to bother looking too closely) moved up onto the stage to bleachers that had appeared behind the ring. The ring then moved out beyond the stage into/over the recently vacated seats. And suddenly it became theatre in the round! There was even a sort of jumbo-tron above the ring with video feed from the stage/ring. It was incredible! I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat! I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt that excited at the theatre, I was actually shaking with excitement. There was just something special about this show! Then they had the final boxing match. I don’t know exactly how long it was but I think it was quite similar to the movie (which I have since seen). It’s certainly an experience I won’t forget!
I was also really glad when I looked back and saw that Christopher Barreca won the 2014 Tony for Best Scenic Design for a Musical! Totally deserved, in my opinion!
As I mentioned before, I have since seen the move. Actually I’ve seen the first three Rocky movies now, and I do plan on watching the rest of them. As I was watching the movie it struck me how close the musical really was to it. I was quite impressed. It’s always hard when it comes to adaptations, you never really know how close they’ll be to the source material and sometimes the differences matter and sometimes they don’t. But boy was Rocky close!
I don’t know if Rocky will ever come back anywhere, but if it does, I would recommend it, whether or not you are familiar with the movie! I went in blind an it worked out wonderfully for me, and it has made me a fan of the movie too. It’s one of those shows, that has a bit of everything; it brings the spectacle but also brings the story, characters, and the music. For me, the spectacle of it all just added to the experience. I loved it from the beginning, way before the boxing ring moved into the orchestra (which also never even crossed my mind as something that could happen until it did). I think all the parts came together really well for Rocky, the technical and the story and character driven elements and moments. You’re rooting for Rocky and Adrian, and then Adrian gets her moment and stands up to Paulie. It’s great! And then you get the scenes like the training sequences and the boxing match that require a lot of technology but it all felt very much a part of the story. For me, it wasn’t just technology and spectacle for the sake of technology and spectacle. It was very much a part of the whole experience and I for one thought it was very well done.
It was actually closing weekend when we were there and there was a part of me that was tempted to see it a 2nd time that same trip. We didn’t, but if I ever get the chance I would see Rocky again in a heartbeat!