image courtesy of The Walnut Street Theatre
But why? Why take such an iconic film, especially beloved here in Philadelphia, and turn it into a musical? Does it work?
Well…yes, it can work if it’s done correctly. And Rocky the Musical checks all the boxes for a winning Broadway show. Musical fans will appreciate the original songs by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens who previously collaborated on Broadway hits like Ragtime and Once on This Island. Along with new songs to enhance the story of Rocky, you’ll also hear movie favorites like “Eye of the Tiger” and “Gonna Fly Now.” The book is written by Thomas Meehan (with Sylvester Stallone, so the heart of the movie is still evident on stage) who is also known for adapting Annie, The Producers, Hairspray, Young Frankenstein and Cry-Baby for Broadway.
South Philly’s own Rocky Balboa is portrayed by Matthew Amira. His previous theatre credits include Jersey Boys, Beautiful- The Carole King Musical, and Dirty Dancing. Past experiences in shows that capture nostalgia and great music really make Amira a wonderful choice for Rocky. He brings the character’s determination to the stage with ease. Also a perfect casting choice South Philly native Gianna Yanelli (she made her professional debut here in Fiddler on the Roof) as Adrian Pennino. Fans of the movie will fall in love with Rocky and Adrian all over again as Amira and Yanelli share their story on the Walnut stage. The second act’s boxing scene is incredible to watch too and you’ll feel like you finally have a front row seat to Rocky’s New Year’s Day fight against Apollo Creed (Walnut veteran Nichalas L. Parker).
Philadelphians will also appreciate nods to our city- a shout out to Jerry Blavat, the mentions of The Spectrum, and of course those famous “Rocky Steps”. What may have been lost on larger Broadway crowds definitely works for the hometown audience, because Rocky the Musical has been extended through November 6th. Tickets can be purchased here.
Walnut Street Theatre’s 214th season celebrates epic love stories. This is certainly one for the line up! Come on out and root for our Philly hero, Rocky!