Rocky: The Musical

Rocky, The Iconic Movie, is now a Musical

Turning the old favourite movie Rocky into a musical?  A lot of people were shaking their heads.  It’s hard to picture Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa singing his heart out.

Well, thank goodness it was Alex Kelly instead of Stallone in the iconic role.  Kelly not only nailed Stallone’s tough guy talk, but belted the songs beautifully, adding to the underdog story.  He is also able to personify the distinctive Rocky look, complete with the leather jacket and fedora, dripping in attitude.

It’s the exact plot of the movie – a Cinderella tale and a love story combined.  Rocky, a mediocre boxer calling himself the “Italian Stallion”, catches the eye of Apollo Creed, a champion wrestler.  Creed needs an opponent and Rocky is called in.  All he wants is to go the distance, so he starts training hard.  Add to this a sweet love story where Rocky woos the shy Adrian.  Adrian lacks confidence, having been bullied by her brother Paulie, but with Rocky she can finally find herself. 

Drayton’s leading lady Jayme Armstrong takes us on Adrian’s journey towards self-assurance.  Armstrong’s powerful rendition of “I’m Done” when she finally stands up to Paulie is moving.

Aaron Walpole gives us the temperamental Paulie who transitions into a nice guy helping Rocky take on Apollo Creed.  Lee MacDougall, back in Canada after his time on Broadway with Come From Away, is perfect as the aging trainer Mickey.

Christopher James is rightfully arrogant as Apollo Creed, pairing well with an energetic Jeremy Carver-James who plays his manager.  The entire company is well cast, covering all the roles and singing well.

Joe Bostick, the fight director, deserves so much credit for the realistic big boxing match.  Kelly and James put their hearts and bodies into the fight, with sweat and blood flying.

Audience members are invited onto the stage to fill the bleachers during the big match, with three audience members asked to be judges for the fight.  If you want to take part, be sure to tell the Playhouse staff at intermission.

There are some difficulties when trying to turn a movie into a live musical.  For example, a movie is generally shot in many different locations.  This is obviously problematic on stage, with so many sets to be built and moved about.  Rocky: The Musical takes place in the gym, the pet shop, Paulie’s house, Rocky’s apartment, the boxing ring, and of course the iconic 72 “Rocky Steps” in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Fortunately, the sets are well done and realistic, and the cast and crew move them in and out fairly quickly.  Credit goes to set designer Brian Dudkiewicz.

The comments most often heard after the opening night performance were “I couldn’t figure out how they would make Rocky into a musical, but it works!” or “I didn’t think I’d like it, but I really do!”  So, come and see Rocky: The Musical – even if you’re not sure about it, I think you’ll like it, too.

Rocky: The Musical will be on stage at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend until August 3.  Tickets are available by calling the Box Office 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com

Photo: Aaron Walpole, Alex Kelly, Lee MacDougall and Company in Rocky: The Musical.  Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.

Rocky: The Musical
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Book by Sylvester Stallone and Thomas Meehan
Directed by Alex Mustakas
Choreographed by Phil Nero
Musical Direction by Michael Lerner
Performed by Jayme Armstrong, Carla Bennett, Justin Bott, Matthew Bradley, Jeremy Carver-James, Matthew Chenuz, Vanessa Cobham, Jacquelyn French, Ryan Gifford, Christopher James, Dani Jazzar, Alex Kelly, Lee MacDougall, Marianne McCord, Daphne Moens, Dan Payne, Andrew Scanlon, Sash Striga, Samuel VanDusen, Aaron Walpole.
Drayton Entertainment Production
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
July 18 to August 3, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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