THE HARDEST thing to forget when you're watching the just-opened musical version of Rocky is that you're watching a musical version of Rocky. The premise smacks of an SNL sketch (Rocky Sings!), and yet the show is easy to embrace, partly because it's at times knowingly camp (sample tune: "My Nose Ain't Broken") and because the underdog story that carried the 1976 Best Picture winner is so strong and so familiar.
When touchstone movie moments occur—Rocky pounding sides of beef or drinking raw eggs—the crowd goes ape. Folks get especially excited during Rocky's fight with Apollo Creed, for which a boxing ring extends eight rows into the orchestra. (People in those seats move to the stage.) When the raucous bout ends, the audience stomps and whoops as if the match were real.
Will Rocky resonate with theatergoers? Can it overcome the Rocky sings oddness? Remember this: The Winter Garden is where a collection of T.S. Eliot poems became the second-longest-running show on Broadway, Cats. So, as Rocky himself might say, it's got a shot.
COURTESY OF POLK AND COMPANY (ROCKY)