A Permanent Home for Rocky Musical? Bad Idea.

Why the Daily News idea just won't work.

Rocky musical

So this appeared today in the Philadelphia Daily News, under Chuck Darrow’s byline:

“Rocky,” the musical based on the iconic 1976 rags-to-riches film about a ham-and-egg boxer from Kensington, closed its Broadway run last August, a mere five months after its much-hyped debut. But just because New York wasn’t a hospitable host doesn’t mean that Rocky Balboa’s hometown couldn’t be. From this vantage point, bringing the musical to Philly as a permanent attraction is a no-brainer.

Darrow’s being an unabashed cheerleader for our city — something we like to try every now and again ourselves — and, hey, we’re big Rocky fans too. Our Victor Fiorillo heaped praise on the musical when it debuted on Broadway last year.

But this is a terrible idea. One that would probably end in tears.

Why? Well, first of all, Rocky did flop on Broadway. Forget, for a second, whether Philadelphia really wants to be in the business of picking up New York’s sloppy seconds. Consider this: Broadway’s theater scene is built around luring tourists to New York from all over the country. And Rocky — a familiar brand, though not as a musical — was built to be especially alluring to travelers. It wasn’t. Darrow’s central conceit — that the play would be a surefire draw for the out-of-town crowd — has already proven false.

Especially on the terms Darrow names: Eight times a week! Forty weeks a year! That’s a Rocky glut. That’s more Rocky, almost certainly, than this city can sustain on its own. (Darrow suggests an almost-500 seat theater is too small for the enterprise.) It’s probably more Rocky than even the tourist crowd can help support. And that’s before we start charging ticket prices.

A friend of mine points out that there’s always a line by the Rocky statute near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. True. But that’s also free. If you’re taking the spouse and kids out for an evening in Philly, though, your evening is going to start running into the hundreds of dollars (or more) pretty quickly. The crowd of potential ticket buyers will probably thin out quickly.

Still, Darrow might on to something.

We may not need to have a permanent Rocky musical staging in order to enjoy the benefits of the musical. Why not make it an event? Put it on for a month at the height of tourist season — or maybe start a weeklong Rocky festival that includes screenings of the movies, maybe a Rocky-inspired race. Go all out, but make it a special, limited event. No more than every couple of years.

We love Rocky. It’s our heritage. But there’s such a thing as too much — and Chuck Darrow is asking us to do it. Let’s try something different.