Karl, a Broadway favorite who has appeared in six other Main Stem musicals — The Mystery of Edwin Drood, 9 to 5, Legally Blonde, Jersey Boys, Wicked and Saturday Night Fever — picked up his first Tony nomination for his work as the down-on-his-luck boxer who falls for a shy pet-shop worker named Adrian (Margot Seibert in her Broadway debut).
"Rocky is a story that speaks directly to my heart," Karl told Playbill.com soon after the nominations were announced, "and it's very personally gratifying to do every night, and to get that acknowledgement [with a nomination]… I feel like I'm putting a little bit of my soul out there every night and making sure that audiences see that… I want to be as honest as I can with a story that is so iconic and [is] such a staple for Stallone… But now it's part Andy Karl as well, which is really interesting. It means a lot to me. I'm very gratified that it's touching people in the way that it is with audiences every night. I see them up on their feet and screaming for the show and screaming for Rocky to win."
Karl, who is married to fellow actress Orfeh — a 2007 Tony nominee for her performance as Paulette in Legally Blonde — said he learned about his nomination watching NY1. "It was a little nerve-wracking," the singing actor admitted, "but when NY1 started, it immediately showed Rocky and then Beautiful, and me and [2014 Tony nominee] Jessie Mueller had worked together last year, and we've been in support of each other ever since we met because we had such a great time doing The Mystery of Edwin Drood. To see our two faces pop up — it was really nice to see a friend who is in the same position that I am, so we'd been texting each other back and forth all morning. She was acknowledged, and I was acknowledged, so it's a good day for the old Landless twins from The Mystery of Edwin Drood!"
Karl also spoke about the thrilling finale of the Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty-Thomas Meehan musical, which concludes with an intense 20-minute boxing match between Rocky and heavyweight champ Apollo Creed (Terence Archie). "It's a whole 'nother show for me," Karl said. "I do Rocky: The Musical, and then after that, when I finish my last song, I have to go get ready for the other show that I'm about to do, which is, you know, stepping in the ring and making sure that this full-on, physical, astounding event happens really well and makes people get out of their seats. So to do that fight is exhausting, thrilling, cathartic and, truly, a great moment to finish on… I'm covered with blood, and I'm screaming for the love of my life, Adrian. It's one of the greatest ends to a movie, and now it's like even more of a spectacular event with a live show because people are viscerally feeling this ending, this beautiful ending to a show. It's wonderful. I love doing it. Even matinees – which are the hardest matinees I've ever done in my life! But people are going crazy. If they can feel a little bit of what I'm feeling on stage, I hope people just come in droves now to come see the show."
[SPOILER ALERT] And, even though underdog Rocky may not win the fight, Karl said, "I feel like I've won a little [after receiving the Tony nomination]. It's nice. I'm going to use this and represent the show because I really believe in the show, and I'm very thrilled to be in the category thanks to the Tony nominators."
Rocky, which earned four 2014 Tony nominations, plays Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre.
View highlights from Rocky below: