'Rocky' musical packs punch on Broadway with rousing finale

Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:14pm EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With its full-size boxing ring, giant video screens and techno wizardry, "Rocky" the musical thrilled audiences on Broadway with its rousing finale, but critics said overall it wasn't a knockout.

The musical, which opened on Thursday night, is based on the 1976 film starring Sylvester Stallone that won a best picture Oscar about a struggling boxer in south Philadelphia who falls for a shy, local girl and gets his once-in-a-lifetime chance to fight the reigning champion.

Broadway veteran Andy Karl, who starred in "Jersey Boys" and "Wicked," fills Stallone's shoes as Rocky Balboa and Margo Seibert, in her Broadway debut, is the mousey pet shop employee Adrian who wins his heart.

"Thanks to these fine actors, you root for Rocky, the romantic lug with pet turtles, and Adrian, the girl he coaxes out of her shell," said the New York Daily News.

The Hollywood Reporter said Karl sticks close to the Stallone model as Rocky but injects a fresh vitality and humor into the role.

"The delicate chemistry between Karl and Seibert breathes warmth into their outsider romance, and Adrian's solos, the melancholy "Raining" and "I'm Done," in which she finally asserts herself ... are among the better numbers," it said.

But the real crowd pleaser is the finale, the fight sequence that pits Rocky against reigning champion Apollo Creed, played with gusto by Terence Archie ("Ragtime"), who originated the role in the musical's first run in Hamburg, Germany, in 2012.

In the finale, audience members in the first few rows are ushered onto bleachers set up on the stage as the boxing ring is moved further into theater for the big fight and cheering fans greet the fighters as they march down the aisles to the ring.   Continued...

Cast members thank attendees during the curtain call at the preview performance of Rocky on Broadway in Manhattan, New York February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly