Gonna Fly Now? Rocky Musical in Development From Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, Thomas Meehan

By Kenneth Jones
01 Jun 2011

Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens
Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens
Photo by Aubrey Reuben

A spring reading of a musical version of the Oscar-winning boxing movie "Rocky," with songs by Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and libretto by Tony winner Thomas Meehan, has encouraged European producers to move ahead with the show.

As first mentioned on Playbill.com on April 28, the film's creator and star Sylvester Stallone attended the Manhattan-rehearsed reading presentation of the developing musical about a meathead Italian boxer from Philly whose big heart lands him a shy girl named Adrian.

"We'll go 'out of town' to Hamburg, Germany…next year," Meehan told Playbill.com columnist Harry Haun at the time. "Then, it's supposed to come to Broadway in 2013."

Andy Karl (the UPS Man in Legally Blonde and a veteran of Altar Boyz) played the title role. "Stallone loved him," Meehan said. "He had never seen anybody else play Rocky."



The New York Times reported on June 1 that the producing team is led by Stage Entertainment (Sister Act, The Woman in White). No official announcement or production timeline has been announced.

"Rocky" — from a relatively unknown Stallone, who starred and penned the screenplay — won the 1976 Academy Award for Best Picture and spawned popular sequels. The film's brassy "Rocky's Theme" by composer Bill Conti became an instant film classic (its lyrics include the words "Gonna fly now….").

Meehan told the Times that Stallone, the story's owner, had approached him about the idea of a "Rocky" musical. Meehan, a Tony Award winner for Annie, Hairspray and The Producers, told the paper to expect an intimate show with a handful of principal characters, following the first film's plot.

Barbara Darwall, a producing partner on the project confirmed the plan that Meehan had told Playbill.com: a German launch in fall 2012 followed by Broadway as "definitely a possibility after that."

Lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty won the Best Score Tony Award for Ragtime, and were nominated for Once On This Island. Like Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock before them, they have been praised for their ability to write muscular, driving, melodic show tunes while alternately zeroing in on tiny human emotions in ballads.

Ahrens & Flaherty also wrote the scores to the musicals My Favorite Year, Seussical, A Man of No Importance, Dessa Rose, The Glorious Ones and Lucky Stiff.