PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Rocky Ringside at the Winter Garden

By Harry Haun
14 Mar 2014


Terence Archie and Andy Karl
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

quot;The fight, in and of itself, is a form of dialogue," Archie contended. "It's not just people throwing knuckles and getting hit in the ribs. The fight is a heightened form of language, just like singing is, so we have to make sure we communicate something different every round. I love the physical scenes. I mean, if you've got anything on your chest, when you get in that ring, you can let it out. You can have a good excuse for it. So I don't mind hitting Andy Karl at all. He's got a good head to hit."

He takes particular pride in this project because "it makes us part of a great legacy. "'Rocky' has been around for over three decades now, and it doesn't just touch people in America. It touches people all over the world. When you hear 'Eye of the Tiger' [Theme for "Rocky III"], something riles up inside you, and that's no fluke. There's a reason for that. People get inspired by it, people who are downtrodden. When they hear that, they sorta get inspired and they want to do something for themselves."

Not everyone can say they did on Broadway roles last played on film by Adolph Menjou and Burt Young, but Mastrogiorgio can — although he adds correctly than Menjou was miscast in Golden Boy and the part was better done on stage by Roman Bohnen. Young was in attendance, and Mastrogiorgio ran off to see what he thought.

"Paulie is a little bit of an unsavory character to a lot of people," Mastrogiorgio understated. "The thing I like about him is that he is the guy who tries. He doesn't always succeed, and maybe he doesn't even often succeed — but he tries."

Still, you don't want him over for the holidays. No turkey or Christmas tree is safe. Matthews admitted, "It's kind scary walking in Burgess Meredith's footsteps," but, other than that, he very much liked the crusty old coach he played. "I like the fact that he has a hard exterior and a soft, disappointed core, and then when he's called upon to be a father to Rocky he manages to do it, and they have a kind of love story."

Jennifer Mudge, best known as a strong dramatic actress, reverts back to musical theatre here — in a role considerably enlarged from the film. ("She had one or two two lines, and you just see the back of her head." But her future looks more musical: "I did Into the Woods at the McCarter last year, and it's coming to the Roundabout at the end of the year. I played the witch." Does she want to do it again? "That's the plan."

Director Timbers was showing the wear-and-tear of all the heavy lifting of bringing Rocky to the Broadway musical stage. He was proud he put acting over singing in casting his show. "Three out of the six principals have never done a Broadway musical. They let us cast play actors, and that was really important to getting us the tone and the emotional fiber of that world. To have musical theatre actors up against play actors really creates some interesting things."

Margo Seibert
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

He was delighted the way his two long-shot leads paid off. "I've never seen Andy do a leading man role before, and he just brought all those things that are just inherent to Rocky — the butchness with the innocence, and his voice, and his ability to do the fights are incredible. Margo auditioned for us literally nine times. When I first saw her, I thought she didn't look like an actress with a capital A, and she acts in this naturalistic manner, too. In the show, she feels very honest and authentic.

"These Broadway musicals are like a 12-week process, and, when you get to the end, it feels like you really are at the end of a marathon not a sprint. Downtown you still have a little energy left, but I feel pretty exhausted right now — and happy."

The red carpet ritual this brisk and bracing evening was uncoverably cold. Seen slivering and shivering into not-much-warmer lobby and innermost lobby of the Winter Garden were Whoopi Goldberg; "Titanic" helmsman James Cameron; original "Rocky" producer Irwin Winkler; ex-Jersey Boy David Reichard; Disney duo Newsie Jeremy Jordan and Little Mermaid Sierra Boggess; Gregg Edelman from Drood; Ayn Robbins and son; Aladdin composer Alan Menken with daughter Anna Rose; set designer Derek McLane and Lia Vollack; designer Ralph Lauren and Ricky Anne Loew-Beer; director-lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. and producer-comedienne Jamie de Roy; playwright Terrence McNally and his Mothers and Sons lead producer, Tom Kirdahy; Jujamcyn kingpin Jordan Roth and agent Richie Jackson; playwright Douglas Carter Beane and composer Lewis Flinn; actress Heidi Blickenstaff and Nicholas Rohlfing; Violet's Colin Donnell and Patti Murin; publicists Judy Jacksina in from Boston and Tony Origlio in from Italy; Wesley Snipes; the newly Oscared Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez letting it go; Joey Slotnick; Memphis mighty Montego Glover; Buyer and Cellar and bound for the West Coast Michael Urie; Sylvie Meis; David Bloch and composer Andrew Lippa; Silver-haired David Byrne whose Here Lies Love will soon lie at The Public directed by Timbers; Jay Armstrong Johnson, fresh from the New York Philharmonic's Sweeney Todd and a recent musical Romeo for Timbers at the La Jolla Playhouse; Orfeh; Bobby Cannavale and Ramona Singer.

Rocky is the third show to play the Winter Garden in 31 years, following the "Now and Forever" musical Cats and the still-running-musical (but elsewhere) Mamma Mia!