Broadway KO’s ‘Rocky’ Musical

Rocky closing Broadway musical

Underdog contender “Rocky” couldn’t triumph over Broadway, where soft sales have led producers to post an Aug. 17 closing notice for the big-budget musical based on the Oscar-winning film.

The early closing, capping the run at just six months, dashes the high hopes inspired by a musical that seemingly had the potential for cross-demographic success with a plot that, as both a love story and an underdog sports tale, could appeal both to women (who make the majority of Broadway ticket purchases) and to men. The Shubert Organization, Broadway’s biggest landlord, slotted the show into one of the company’s prime houses, the Winter Garden, where “Cats” played out its long run and “Mamma Mia!” became a smash.

But despite a successful German-language premiere in 2012 in Hamburg, Germany — where “Rocky” is still playing — Broadway audiences never took the bait. A savvy and sophisticated marketing campaign couldn’t overcome the cognitive dissonance that American theatergoers felt in imagining the laconic bruiser Rocky burst out into song.

Following the musical’s March 13 opening, reviews in the New York press were mixed, with positive notices balanced by more downbeat assessments in some prominent outlets. The Tony Awards nominators left the title out of the best musical race, and not even a flashy number on the Tony telecast, showcasing the signature spectacle of the tuner’s finale, could turn up the heat at the box office.

Weekly sales have, for the most part, hovered in the $700,000 range, which is far less than would be required for a large-scale musical with high weekly running costs to push through to recoupment. The technically ambitious show, encompassing a mobile boxing ring that descends into the orchestra during the climactic final sequence, weighed in at a reported $16.5 million in capitalization. Little of those costs will have been made back from the musical’s soft sales.

The closing represents a disappointment for lead producer Stage Entertainment USA, the American branch of European theatrical giant Stage Entertainment. A heavyweight producer of theatrical fare abroad, Stage has yet to establish an enduring Broadway hit. The company’s production of  “Sister Act” ran in New York for less than 18 months, while last season’s “Big Fish” sank even quicker.

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  1. Mable Leigh says:

    I saw this show with my husband and we both loved it. It’s beyond me how producers can expect a director and cast to put so much of themselves into a show, spend several months or even years preparing for it and putting it together, and then it’s put up or shut up–If they don’t see enough of a monetary return FAST enough, they pull the plug in the blink of an eye. Really 6 months was not much of a chance at all. I’m actually upset because I would’ve loved to have taken my dad to see this on his next visit to New York. I know I’m naïve when it comes to business matters, but it seems that the show wasn’t doing terribly in sales, just not spectacularly. That was maybe worth a few more months. Word of mouth takes a while to spread sometimes, and with the holiday season coming up, they surely would’ve seen a spike because that’s NYC’s busiest season. I have a friend who is in the entertainment business, though, and he said that there were a few problems with the show, such as the original songs written for it not being up to par. As a spectator I also noticed there was no dancing, which is unusual for a Broadway show.. but nevertheless I enjoyed it very much and thought the sets, directing, acting and singing were phenomenal. I’m hoping for a revival, perhaps they can take it on the road or something. I would love to see it again.

  2. Jill says:

    I just saw Rocky last week and absolutely loved it. I agree more publicity might have helped it. Most people I talked to about it said they’d see it if it wasn’t closing. Too bad. The actors and sets were amazing.

  3. CeCe says:

    Caught the show in June for our anniversary and thought it was great fun. Neither of us are big musical fans, but of course love the original Rocky film, so gave it a go. We had a blast, great acting and singing and the final fight scene was what made it a winner for us, it really did feel like a genuine match. Very sorry to hear it’s closing and wish the cast, musicians, crew much great good luck.

  4. D.T. says:

    I agree with Lauri’s comment. I saw Rocky in May and thought it was great. The acting was excellent and the fight scene at the end made you feel as if you were at an actual boxing match. I’m sorry to hear that it’s closing.

  5. Roy says:

    I’m not surprised. Audiences are sick to death over this trend by lazy producers looking to make a quick buck based on the name recognition of some stupid movie. Very few of these movies-to-musical have been hits. Almost all of them close early. When will the producers try to find a completely new musical? I, for one, can’t wait until they wake up and start TRYING again.

  6. David says:

    Didn’t Germany also love David Hasselhof?

  7. Bill Fisher says:

    “couldn’t overcome the cognitive dissonance that American theatergoers felt in imagining the laconic bruiser Rocky burst out into song.”
    I can’t tell you how boring entertainment writers have become in constantly writing as though people don’t know what a musical is. Does this guy really think that audiences would go into a Broadway theatre where “ROCKY” the musical was playing and be shocked that the Italian stallion expressed himself in song? I can’t count how many articles written by current “journalists” snarkily (in desperate attempts to affirm their ‘cool’ status) talk about musicals in terms of how oudated they are, how audiences can’t relate to them, how young people are unfamiliar with the genre, etc. etc. etc. Is not Broadway pulling in record grosses? Have not LION KING, LES MIZ, PHANTOM, MAMMA MIA, CATS and other blockbuster stage hits grossed more than TITANIC, AVATAR, TRANSFORMERS, etc. on the screen? Did not the films of MAMMA MIA, CHICAGO, LES MIZ do amazing business at the multiplexes? Was not the biggest movie (earning more than IRONMAN 3) of 2013, FROZEN, a musical? I think SOMEBODY out there knows what a musical is.

    • Read Before Ya Post says:

      Look Dude…the reviewer wasn’t slamming musicals. The reviewer was suggesting that NY theatre-goers didn’t buy Rocky Balboa in song-and-dance mold…that that was a concept just too hard to swallow. Read his piece again.

      • Bill Fisher says:

        Thanks Dude. I read it quite carefully. And thanks! I’ve never been trolled before online. I stand by my comments.

  8. Laurie Eposito says:

    Our family saw ROCKY on Broadway and I don’t think their was enough publicity put out for this play. It has the great original story line, great acting and the fight scene at the end is amazing! They should’ve put out a few commercial’s on t.v. and in other areas. I blame this on a lack of publicity. The show is sincerely entertaining and we would all definitely see it again. It would be a shame for it to be taken off of Broadway. Give it a few more month’s with more publicity, especially to the club crowd….twenty something’s would love this story! Give out flyer’s at clubs and again, put a few commercial’s on t.v. for it…you may see a big difference.

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