×

Broadway KO’s ‘Rocky’ 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.

More Legit

  • Stephen Moore

    Stephen Moore, 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' Android, 'Doctor Who' Actor, Dies at 81

    Stephen Moore, best known for his roles as the paranoid android Marvin in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” radio series and the Silurian Eldane in “Doctor Who,” has died. He was 81. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” producer Dirk Maggs confirmed Moore’s death Sturday on Twitter, writing, “Our dear friend Stephen Moore has [...]

  • Ben Platt Variety Power of New

    Ben Platt on Coming Out and the Queerness of 'The Politician'

    Ben Platt never imagined he would one day star in a series like “The Politician.” “I didn’t think I could be a star of a show in general starting out. I think I was like, ‘I’ll do Broadway. I can be on stage and I can play Jimmy in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and Nathan Detroit [...]

  • Michael Jackson in concert in Milton

    Michael Jackson Musical to Open on Broadway in Summer 2020

    “MJ,” a musical based on the life and career of Michael Jackson, will open on Broadway in summer 2020. Preview performances will start July 6 before its official debut on Aug. 13. The stage show, which will include songs like “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and “Smooth Criminal,” was originally [...]

  • The Wrong Man review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Wrong Man'

    Credit songwriter Ross Golan for the seamless quality of “The Wrong Man,” his mesmerizing musical about a good man who deserves a good life but seems to attract nothing but bad luck. The show’s inventive book, music, and lyrics were all penned by this multi-hyphenate talent who was named 2016 BMI Pop Songwriter of the [...]

  • Kristin Chenoweth Broadway

    Listen: Kristin Chenoweth Wants to Write a Broadway Musical

    Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t just want to star in Broadway musicals. She’s thinking about writing one, too. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I think about it a lot,” Chenoweth said on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “I want someone to collaborate with me on a story I have, and it would be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content