Yo! Rocky the Musical, Premiering in Germany, Will Star American Drew Sarich

By Kenneth Jones
June 6, 2012

Drew Sarich, the American actor who has had a busy career performing musicals in Europe, will play iconic underdog boxer Rocky Balboa in Rocky the Musical, getting its world premiere this fall in Hamburg, Germany.



The 36-year-old St. Louis-born, Vienna-based Sarich was Armand in Broadway's Lestat and played Grantaire (and later Javert and Valjean) in the 2006 Broadway revival of Les Miserables. He was the title character in the stage premiere of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame in Germany.

Adrian, Rocky's underconfident girlfriend, will be played by 31-year-old Dutch actress Wietske van Tongeren.

The musical (which will be performed in the German language) has a score by Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Once On This Island) and a book by Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan (Annie, Hairspray). Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Peter and the Starcatcher) will direct.

The producer, Stage Entertainment, announced the casting news on June 6.

Rocky co-producer Sylvester Stallone, who created the story and starred in the 1976 source film, was apprised of casting progress by viewing videos of each performer throughout the process. He said in a statement, ”To find a guy like Rocky is very difficult. This was a real challenge for the casting team. I saw a lot of candidates on video and I was surprised about the great talent pool in Germany. I am very happy that we finally found Drew Sarich. He is a great actor, brilliant singer with the right look of an honest, simple guy fighting for his moment of dignity."

Sarich came to Germany in 1999. Since then, in addition to playing the Hunchback, he played the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar and was Count Krolock in Dance of the Vampires. He is also a musician and songwriter, and has released seven albums as a solo artist or with his band International Victim. He currently lives in Vienna with his wife and two children.

Sarich and van Tongeren appeared together in Rudolf Mayerling Affair in Vienna in 2009. She created the role of "I" at the world premiere of Rebecca the Musical in Vienna in 2007. Before her work in Rocky later this year, she will play Agnès Duchamp in Marie Antoinette in Tecklenburg.

Of physically transforming into the boxer, Sarich said in a statement, "I was never fit. I was never fit! I came to Europe in 1999 with a weight of 120 kg. Right now I am about 80 kg and I [was] was told a week ago: 'now you need another 10 kg more but pure muscle.' That means push-ups, cross-training, pull-ups, large meals. I really look forward to it."

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Rocky, drawing on the 1976 Oscar-winning boxing movie, will get its world premiere at the Operettenhaus in Hamburg, Germany, in November. The producers are Stage Entertainment, Sylvester Stallone and Vitali & Wladimir Klitschko.

The musical had 2011 industry presentations in New York City.

Timbers directed Broadway's The Pee-wee Herman Show and directed and wrote the book for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (for which he was Tony-nominated as a writer).

Steven Hoggett, a 2012 Tony Award nominee for Choreography for Once, whose credits also include Black Watch, American Idiot and Peter and the Starcatcher, will create the boxing choreography. Kelly Devine (Rock of Ages) is choreographer of the more traditional musical numbers in the show that composer Flaherty called a kind of "visceral …street opera." In addition to offering intimate songs, the show also has its moments of "gladiatorial spectacle," Timbers said in a promotional video.

The film's writer and star Stallone attended the 2011 New York City presentations of the developing musical about a meathead Italian boxer from Philly whose big heart lands him a shy girl named Adrian. As in the 1976 picture, Rocky Balboa's aging trainer Mickey, shady future brother-in-law Paulie and boxing rival Apollo Creed are major characters in the musical.

The movie from then-unknown Stallone won the 1977 Academy Award for Best Picture. It also won the Oscar for Best Director (John G. Avildsen) and Film Editing (the dynamic boxing-ring scenes had post-Watergate, post-Vietnam audiences cheering).

The musical is aiming for a Broadway life in 2013, Meehan previously told Playbill.com. The show is expected to include the original film's popular, Oscar-nominated song, "Gonna Fly Now," as well as the Oscar-nominated "Eye of the Tiger" from "Rocky III." The bulk of the score is made up of new songs by lyricist Ahrens and composer Flaherty. The composer said the score will be flavored with rock, R&B, folk and funk.

The production is billed on the Stage Entertainment website as Rocky, Das Musical, Fight From the Heart.

The scenic designer is Chris Barreca (The Violet Hour, Marie Christine).

No additional casting has been announced.

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In New York City developmental rehearsals in 2011, 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."

Ahrens and 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.

Visit musicals.de for ticket information, or find more at facebok.com/RockyDasMusical.