“Rocky” the musical opened on Broadway at the Wintergarden Theater on Marh 13, 2014. I haven’t seen it, but I was wondering how it would be received by the public and by critics. When I heard that there was a “Rocky” musical in the works, I immediately thought, “Ba idea.” After all, Rocky has become a film icon – the personification of the perennial underdog who never gives up, who finds a way to win – and teaches us that sometimes there are different definitions of “winning.”
Why do a musical? Could the writers and producers and cast do any better than the original? I wouldn’t imagine so. Could they tell us any more about the characters and their backgrounds than we already know? Very doubtful. The question remains, then: why do it? The cynical answer would be, “Money.” That would be the same reason for doing a sequel. As it happens, “Rocky II” was one of those rare sequels that did justice to the original, but the remaining sequels are perhaps best left unmentioned. There was simply not much good material there, except for “III.”
This brings us to the current effort. For those of us who have only seen the original “Rocky” and “Rocky II” movies and not the the brand-new musical – which would of necessity be virtually everyone who has seen either movie – I ask the question, “Could you imagine Rocky or Adrian or Pauley or Apollo singing or dancing?” It’s tough for me to picture that, let alone hear it in my mind.
From what I’ve seen, the reviews have been mostly very good. The production, according to Variety.com, includes a full-sized boxing ring and tons of very-well-done high technology. At the start of the second act, the people sitting in the first few rows of the theater are escorted onstage, to sit in the set’s bleacher seats. I suppose that word-of-mouth will be enough to sell more tickets – it’s a novel idea, but I wonder if it’s too gimmicky. The reviews mention the thrilling fight scenes, but Variety mentions a couple of sleep-inducing ballads, and The New York Post said, “If you could win a Tony based on just 20 minutes, “Rocky” would be a shoo-in. Problem is, that finale is preceded by an hour and a half of less thrilling moments.”
This is almost exactly the same thing that many critics said of the movie “Titanic.” I remember very well the first review I ever heard for “Titanic.” It went something like this: “In ‘Titanic,’ director James Cameron gives us 20 minutes of the most thrilling, nail-biting, edge-of your-seat adventure ever seen in a movie. Unfortunately, it comes on the tail end of three hours of the most bland, chemistry-less drama that Hollywood has ever produced.”
Is there a flaw in my contention that the musical version was a bad idea? Yes – and that is that there are at least a couple of generations who very likely have never seen the original Rocky or any of the sequels, and have no idea who Rocky and Adrian and Pauley and Mickey are, so the characters would be fresh and without any preconceptions. The problem is, a lot more people can and will see a movie, and in any case, with a top price of $143.00 per ticket for the play, how many kids and teenagers are going to see it?
Here are some pictures of Katrina Bowden as she attends the opening night after-party at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City.