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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Winter Garden


  Andy Karl/ Ph: Matthew Murphy

Yo, let me come straight to the point. The 15-minute bout that essentially serves as the 11:00 number in Rocky, the musical adaptation of the 1976 Oscar-winning feel-good movie written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, is, plain and simple, a knockout. The dazzling stage craft of the show’s director Alex Timbers, the brilliantly fashioned punch/feint/punch/counterpunch match (choreographed by Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine) that pits the underdog title character against the heavyweight champion of the world Apollo Creed is something you’re going to watch with mouth agape, then share with all your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
As for the rest of the show, well, simply think of it as the undercard. With a competent but forgettable score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (there’s one little charmer “Happiness”) and a book by Thomas Meehan and Stallone, Rocky the musical is pretty much Rocky the movie. Actually, some of Rocky the musical is Rocky the movie. There are several filmed montages of the title character getting in shape for the fight of his life. It is heartening to see a creative team with so much respect for source material, but Rocky will be most enjoyed by those who view the movie as sacred text. And yo, you guys know who you are. You’re the ones who can be counted on to applaud madly – at least you did the night I was there – when the title character, played by Andy Karl, downs three raw eggs as part of his training regimen. For that feat alone, the guy should get a Tony. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get Salmonella.
But perhaps you are unfamiliar with the movie that launched Stallone’s biceps and career. Rocky Balboa is a Philadelphia club fighter with talent but few prospects and fewer wins. He scrapes by working as an enforcer for a loan shark. Being a sweet-natured sort he can’t bring himself to inflict the blows his day job requires. When the boxer who was set to take on undefeated Apollo Creed (Terence Archie) decides to forgo the dubious honor, Creed and his management team decide to give a local nobody a shot. They settle on Rocky because they like his nickname The Italian Stallion and because they know a walkover when they see one. 
It’s all here, all so earnestly here: Bill Conti’s familiar anthem “Gonna Fly Now;” Rocky’s courting of plain, shy Adrian (Margo Seibert), a pet store employee; Rocky fine-tuning his technique by punching (and perhaps tenderizing) the carcasses in a meat locker; Rocky making that famous run up the stairs to the Philadelphia Museum.

The steps are steep; the show is flat. 


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