The Oscar-winning movie "Rocky" comes to musical life on Broadway. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
In boxing, all you need is one knockout. "Rocky" has two of them: Andy Karl's lead performance as the title pugilist and Alex Timbers' spectacular staging of the climactic final bout. But this is theatre, and two knockouts may not be enough.
It follows the movie closely, including that iconic theme music; and rousing as it is, comparisons are inevitable. Without the film's gritty realism, the show's first act feels rather episodic, amounting to a long set-up for Rocky's big fight with heavyweight champ Apollo Creed.
At the start, Rocky is a down-and-out club fighter in Philadelphia. He may be battered and bruised, but his heart is big, and in fairytales, that's all you need to get the girl and a one-in-a-million shot at the heavyweight title.
Thomas Meehan wrote the book with Sylvester Stallone, who famously penned the Oscar-winning film's screenplay. Alex Timbers' production is imaginative throughout, though there were some missteps. Apollo Creed's big number, for one, should have been a showstopper. The score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens is not this talented duo's best work, even if it propelled the plot well enough.
In Act 2, the pace picks up, and Timbers manages some neat montage effects. It's visually impressive, but those last 15 minutes, a staging tour de force, are alone worth the ticket.
Casting matches up nicely. As Adrian, Margo Seibert is quite lovely. Danny Mastrogiorgio's Paulie has the right edge. Dakin Matthews' grizzled trainer Mickey is solid, though there's no replacing Burgess Meredith. And Terence Archie's Apollo Creed looks sensational.
But whoa Andy Karl! Channeling Stallone's star-making performance, he is a marvel. As a triple threat actor, singer and boxer, no one works harder on Broadway. Pound for pound, he ranks number 1.
Theatre purists may balk at the flaws, but give the fans a guy to cheer for and a thrilling fight to the finish, and "Rocky" is sure to emerge victorious.