This Sunday, August 17th, the curtain will close for the final time on Rocky the Musical on Broadway. It opened with such promise, a star-studded opening night and decent reviews. But Rocky had trouble filling seats, meaning it is doubtful we will ever see Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago belt out a tune in Rocky II through V: The Musicals.
New York papers blared the headlines you would expect, "Rocky Down For The Count" and "Broadway’s Rocky the Musical is KO’d." You got the feeling that the New York Daily News featured an article written by the play’s star simply so it could blare the headline, "Broadway’s Rocky, Andy Karl, Delivers His Requiem for a Heavyweight."
The same paper patted itself on the back while taking a final jab at Rocky with the self-congratulatory first line, “The headlines and story leads may be better than the play.”
And, of course, the underlying metropolitan schadenfreude in the headlines got my Philly hackles up. There is a New York glee in the demise of anything that has to do with Philadelphia. New Yorkers don’t like the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies or any of our sports teams, and like to tease the city like a younger sibling. In a story headlined "Silly Philly Shills," the New York Daily News this week mocked Philadelphia’s attempt to win the Democratic National Convention over Brooklyn.
Filled with Philly pride, I felt a moral imperative to take the family to New York this week and pay my final respects to Rocky the Musical at one of its last shows. It was thoroughly enjoyable and except for the constant references to the “Southside” instead of South Philly, the play took me through the same emotions as the original, my wife even cried a few times. Maybe it’s a Philly thing.
And then it hit me. Rocky the Musical should re-open in Philadelphia. The Winter Garden Theater in New York was never the right spot for a Philadelphia icon. The only place for Rocky is Philly.
There is no question that the show could have a long run here and would be a big hit when we get the Democratic National Convention.
There were hopes early on that Rocky the Musical would help tourism in Philadelphia. When the musical opened, Paula Butler of Visit Philadelphia told the Inquirer, “We can take advantage of a time when Rocky is again in the limelight to tell our own story.”
The idea that the musical in New York would get tourists to then come to Philadelphia in a Rocky daze is at best wishful thinking; but taking the musical and putting it on a stage in Philadelphia would draw tourists.
We have done well in the past with New York hand-me-downs like Tug McGraw, Ed Rendell and even Sylvester Stallone. Rocky the Musical would thrive in Philly, the place it was meant to play.
Just drop the Southside references. That’s Chicago. It just pisses us off.