Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The Winter Garden Theatre transforms into the Philadelphia Spectrum Arena. Cheers, screams and chanting erupt throughout the theatre as Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed begin the boxing match of a lifetime. The audience isn’t just watching the action, they are a part of it.
Based on the 1976 Academy-Award-winning movie, Rocky tells the story of Rocky Balboa (Andy Karl), an aging Italian-American boxer from South Philadelphia. Balboa has a heart of gold, however, life has dealt him a less-than-perfect hand. He competes in small, underground boxing matches for less than $40 and lends out his fists to a mobster named Gazo (Eric Anderson). He also has an all-consuming-crush for Adrian (Margo Seibert), the painfully shy sister of his best friend Paulie (Danny Mastrogiorgio). While beginning a relationship with Adrian, Rocky is called upon to fight against heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Terence Archie), so Rocky “The Italian Stallion” begins his extreme training regimen under the guidance of Mickey (Dakin Matthews), the local gym owner. Rocky is determined to show the world that he can go the distance against Creed.
With an original score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and a book co-written by Thomas Meehan and the original Rocky Balboa himself, Sylvester Stallone, Rocky perfectly translates from the screen to the stage. The lovable spirit of Rocky isn’t lost through this adaptation. Fans of the movie and Broadway fans will be equally impressed with this latest Broadway sensation.
The key element of this Broadway musical? Finding the absolutely perfect Rocky Balboa. Andy Karl precisely embodies “The Italian Stallion” as he invites the audience into the world of South Philadelphia and boxing. If anyone was skeptical about Karl’s recent 2014 Tony Award Nomination for Best Actor in a Musical, they clearly haven’t sat in the Winter Garden Theatre and watched Karl put his heart, sweat, and even blood into this performance. The choreography by Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine showcases Karl’s commitment to the role because during the boxing matches he is often times actually being punched. Karl’s voice also makes the audience swoon as he delivers the two most memorable original songs, “My Nose Ain’t Broken” and “Fight from the Heart.” Karl makes audiences root for Rocky all over again.
Rocky wouldn’t be the smash movie without the painfully shy love interest, Adrian. Adrian comes to life through Margo Seibert in this musical. This being her Broadway debut, Seibert delivers a perfect performance. Her illustrious voice echoes throughout the theatre during the number “Raining.” This is an amazing start for the young actress, who should expect a long and prosperous Broadway career ahead of her.
The performances by Karl and Seibert are extraordinary, however, the 2014 Tony-Award-Winning scenic design by Christopher Barreca really takes center ring. Barreca has flawlessly transformed the Winter Garden Theatre into South Philadelphia. The set pieces are the main event. The shades of black and grey help portray the drab feeling of Philadelphia during this period of time. All of the iconic scenic elements audiences loved in the movie come to life on the stage. The huge set piece of hanging meat during the meatpacking scene effortlessly flies in from off stage and earns a thunderous applause. The iconic Rocky scene of Balboa running up the concrete stairs also comes to life as Karl climbs a giant, realistic replica. The main scenic event comes during the final match between Balboa and Creed. The first couple of rows of the center orchestra are relocated on stage as the boxing ring slides into the audience to create a ring-side feel. The audience is literally on every side of the ring as they become part of the action cheering for Balboa. There is no room for error in this final sequence and the cast and crew perform it flawlessly.
Rocky is currently playing at the Winter Garden Theatre in NYC until August 17, 2014. Hurry and buy your ring side seats for this piece of Broadway magic.