Andy Karl in the role of Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion, is to be commended for his sheer energy and commitment to the role. He isn't the cute office boy from 9to5 or the hunky UPS guy from Legally Blonde anymore. He looks like a genuine prize fighter and according to some interviews, has gotten the occasional black eye to prove it. His singing has it's moments, especially in "Fight from the Heart" when he decides to fight Creed, though the Stallone accent interferes with his pitch in other songs. This performance should certainly garner nominations in the upcoming awards season.
Margo Seibert makes her Broadway debut as the mousy Adrian. Her first solo "Raining" is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but her Act II solo "I'm Done" shows some real grit and power. As she really gives it to her brother Paulie who has done nothing but put her down for twenty plus years, she conjures a bit of Stephanie J. Block in 9to5's "Get Out and Stay Out," though thinner vocally.
The true star of the show is the boxing. Why else would you see Rocky? The excitement begins with the training sequences that feature Karl running in place, hokey as it may sound, but the moving transparent projects of the Philadelphia streets bring director Alex Timbers' vision to life. I wanted to love the famous stairs scene even more, but it is pretty anticlimactic in comparison to the final scene. Speaking of which, right before Rocky fights Apollo Creed, "security" marches the first eight rows of center orchestra into bleachers onstage. This is when the audience is transported from the Winter Garden to a Philadelphia arena. Timbers's attention to detail is impeccable. We have color analysts, an announcer, a referee, judges, ringside girl, and even live TV cameras. You can't help but stand and cheer as Rocky and his team march down the aisle of the orchestra and you won't sit down for the rest of the show. The fight choreography by Steven Hoggett & Kelly Devine is so realistic you forget where you are for about twenty minutes.We all know how the story ends. Rocky goes the distance, and though Creed wins by the judges' votes, Rocky really wins because he proves that he isn't a bum and he gets the girl. Yes, we hear our favorite line from the movie "Adriannnnnnn" as she too runs into the ring from the aisle of the orchestra.
The production's tag line is "Love Wins," but that is really selling the show short. If you want to see a love story, go to The Bridges of Madison County, but if you want to see boxing, then yo, come to Rocky. Does this absolutely need to be a musical? No, it doesn't, but it is certainly an exciting theatrical experience. I don't know how long it will run on Broadway, but it certainly has a future in Vegas where boxing is a marquis event and flashiness is king.