“Yo! Adrian! Your good-natured friend Rocky — he’s shy and a little awkward — but he’s a keeper, and at 29-years old still believes “if you can dream it you can do it.” He is stuck collecting weekly paybacks from a bunch of gambling bums for a loan shark. But still religiously training for his chance to win a championship bout that will surely never come.
If you saw the movie you know winning isn’t everything — but self-respect and getting your girl is the most rewarding triumphs a man could wish for. Watching six-packed stud Andy Karl play the feckless boxer — look for awards nominations to surely come his way come Tony time — at the Winter Garden Theater you begin to believe that miracles can come true. But even a perfectly chosen cast isn’t the reason “Rocky” will rock on for seasons to come.
Credit for the exhilarating transformation of the film to a soaring theater experience — that finally drew our audience, cheering, to its feet as Rocky and his boxing champion nemesis Apollo Creed went at it in the recreation of a dazzling hot-white lit boxing ring — belongs to director Alex Timbers and set designer Christopher Borreco. And also to Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ both spirited and poignant score and Thomas Meehan and Sylvester Stallone’s faithful adaptation of the latter’s Oscar-winning film. With kudos also to David Zinn (costumes), Don Scully and Pablo N. Molina (video design), Peter Hylenski (sound), Jeremy Chernick (special effects), David Holcenberg (music supervisor) and Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine’s choreography — assuming it includes the boxing and fight scenes — these are the reasons the Winter Garden is a rocking knockout of an evening.
Rocky’s sole feat a is he’s never broken his nose in a fight. The boxer can’t get to first base with his equally socially awkward, shy, would-be girlfriend Adrian. And it’s dulllsville for the struggling loser until (theme song, please!) world heavyweight champ Apollo Creed’s managers can’t find an opponent to fight their breadwinner (Terence Archie has little to say but his time in the climactic boxing bout is a sure acting triumph of its own). Rocky’s finally convinced, for $150,00 —win or lose — that he’s their man.
With a recreation of Rocky’s long climb up the Philadelphia steps from the film (theme song included) as a memory jogger, it’s still the dazzling white hot spotlight on the equally white-hot (and bloody) battle between Rocky and Creed that brought our audience to its feet.
With Daken Matthers as Rocky’s trainer and bad-mouthing, ultimately jealous Danny Mastrogiorgio as Adrian’s brother as standouts, the true co-star of Rocky” is Margo Seibert. Her gem performance as the boxer’s beloved Adrian — from her overwhelming shyness, to her awakening to love — to her dazzling all-dressed up sharing of Rocky’s losing triumph — the actress has a magnificent voice to match the gentle and shy sweetness she brings to her relationship with her perfectly matched mate to be.
It won’t spoil your evening to report that when a third of the audience ascends the stage to take what becomes ringsides seats for the climactic bout — with part of the front audience urged to stand around the boxing ring that comes to extend beyond the stage—the electricity at the Winter Garden could power a jet liner. And yet, the feel-good power of “Rocky” comes equally from its innate poignancy as a love story.
With all the sad, bad news in today’s world it’s a true pleasure to watch an underdog emerge triumphant, and get the girl. And the electric jolts at “Rocky” don’t have a snowflake in them!
“London Wall’ lights up the Mint
When playwright John Van Druten’s “London Wall” premiered in London in 1931, this revelatory delight was hailed for capturing the behind the scenes travails of the women employed as shorthand typists at a bustling London law firm. And the men who caused them grief. While the office was strictly overseen by the head partner of Walker, Windemere and Co., Mr. Walker’s (excellent Jonathan Hogan) main concern was turning his offices into a more contemporary workplace where men and women would work side by side. But Van Druten’s play proved well ahead of its time in portraying no holds barred the kind of family that today dominates office sitcoms oft-times reality: where the men and women play at a tug-of-war composed of office romances going awry, backstabbing, shifting male and female alliances and surprises. In “London Wall” we get them all, with a hilarious Third Act that adroitly foreshadows how Mr. Walker’s good intentions had gone somewhat to wildly awry; with some life-changing results for the ladies facing various complications both in and out of the office, and a well-deserved come-uppance for the junior male lawyer lothario.
With its spot-on cast a joy, “London Wall” has been extended. Do visit Van Druten’s wry lesson that some things have changed over time since 193, but office politics is not one of them. Nor is human nature. Go see for yourself at the Mint Theater, 311 West 43rd Street. Tickets at www.minttheater.org or at 866-811-4111.