NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Since its premiere as a movie in 1976, Rocky has been an icon of the American working-class hero.
So when Sylvester Stallone decided to remake his Oscar-winning movie into a musical, even the show’s director, Alex Timbers, wondered if it could work.
“It definitely sounded, I think to me and also to the writers, an unlikely idea,” he told CBS New York’s Kristine Johnson.
Timbers — at 35, already a Broadway veteran — admitted he had not even seen the “Rocky” movies before being hired to lead the Broadway show.
“I thought it actually was an asset,” he said. “You treat the script like a dramatic text, so I went to the New York Public Library, and I spent three days pulling pictures, like, ‘This is what the boxers look like,’ ‘This is what Philadelphia looks like.'”
“Rocky” was nominated for four Tony Awards, including best performance by an actor for Andy Karl’s portrayal of Rocky Balboa.
“We’re … playing these sort of iconic roles that people have all their expectations, but the wonderful thing is that they become our own,” Karl said.
What sets “Rocky” apart is the interchangeable parts of its set.
The boxing ring, Timbers said, “can move upstage, downstage, to the left and to the right and then come in, and it can also flip on its side so that you can project onto the front of the ring.”
Like the movie, “Rocky” the musical ends with an electrifying 20-minute championship fight sequence.
“I think one of the things that we grappled with was how do you represent the fight?” Timbers said.
Audience members are relocated on stage so the ring can take center stage.
“Of course, you feel pressure because there’s a lot of money at stake, and more importantly, it’s a story that people hold dear to their hearts that they have this personal relationship to,” Timbers said. “So you want to do that justice, and yet, you don’t want to just re-create the movie on stage. You want to do something that feels theatrical and fresh.
“There’s a reason to be remaking this story.”
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