Saturday, March 8, 2014
Since I am not a fan of Sylvester Stallone's 1976 movie, I'm not sure what possessed me to buy a ticket for the musical version, now in previews at the Winter Garden. Curiosity, I guess. After all, it was a hit in Hamburg. The creative team is impressive: music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, a book by Thomas Meehan and Stallone, choreography by Steven Hoggett (and Kelly Devine) and direction by Alex Timbers. The cast has no big names, but that's not an essential. The real stars here are the designers; there is a spectacularly mobile set by Christopher Barreca with projections by Dan Scully and Pablo N. Molina, vivid costumes by David Zinn, fine lighting by Christopher Akerlind and excellent sound by Peter Hylenski. Alas, when the show's design is its strongest feature, it does not bode well. Andy Karl is terrific as Rocky and the other actors are energetic, but their roles are so lacking in nuance that they are little more than caricatures. The show belatedly springs to life for the last 10 or 15 minutes with the wonderfully choreographed fight scene. The first several rows of the theater are emptied and their occupants are invited onstage for ringside seats as the boxing ring moves forward into the theater. It's a gimmick, but it works. The fight itself is spectacular, but for me it was not worth over two hours of boredom waiting for it. The music made so little impression that the point of turning the film into a musical was lost on me. All that being said, most of the audience seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes including intermission.