It turns out 2006's Rocky Balboa was not the end the line for our favorite boxer after all. The film, like no other sequel before it, rediscovered the edgy, independent spirit of the 1976 masterpiece that captured the heart of the world. When audiences walked out of the theater this time around, there was a collective feeling that the Rocky franchise had gracefully come full circle. Writer, actor, director and producer Sylvester Stallone claims his new Rocky musical will take Rocky fans "an extra 360 degrees."
"I don't know…it's like, ugh, there's no nail in Rocky's coffin yet? You know in the last one we got da stuff outta da basement, now we gotta get some stuff outta da closet," says Stallone.
Rocky: The Musical is like nothing Rocky fans have every experienced before. Here Rocky faces new challenges in a fast-paced world that is always a step ahead of him. Rocky Jr.'s new homosexual relationship with a Russian figure skating coach ignites a bitter feud that puts Sly back on the ice for the first time in over thirty years. While searching for answers to the prejudice inside him, the former champion must come to terms with not only his son's sexual identity, but his also his own.
Helping Stallone through his first original stage play, Rocky film veteran Burt Young reprises his role as Rocky's ill-tempered, alcoholic brother-in-law Paulie. The supporting cast includes Broadway veterans Harvey Fierstein and Nathan Lane, with music by none other than Sir Elton John.
Fierstein, who appears in only one pivotal scene as the ghost of Mickey, sings the Elton-penned "You Got Heart Kid." In the scene an angelic Mickey hovers above a troubled and tearful Rocky praying at his bedside. The song, holding strong on iTunes singles charts, gives Rocky the courage to tell Paulie that, after leading a prominently heterosexual lifestyle his entire life, he might be gay.
An always seemingly out-of-breath Fierstein tells us that while his scene is strong, Sly and Burt's is "extremely intense."
"Every night I have to scream at the technicians to get me out of the air and those damn wings off so I can hurry to see Burt go after Sly with his bat," says an energetic Fierstein with two cigarettes hanging out of his mouth. "When Sly sings and dances his way through 'Oh, Come On Paulie' to the music of 'Yellow Brick Road,' it brings tears to my eyes."
It's perhaps Nathan Lane, as an injured, down-on-his/her-luck transgendered figure skater Adrian, who has made the most radical transformation of his career. Lane reportedly spent four disciplined months dieting and exercising his way down to a sleek 115 pounds and adding a small silicon B cup to his newly chiseled frame.
"The food and exercise was horrible, but I love my new tits and so does the champ," says the prolific stage actor with a burst of his trademark laughs straight out of The Birdcage. "But seriously, when we recreated the scene on the ice from the first film, I didn't feel transgendered at all. I think audiences will see past that too."
Though the Broadway Rocky is drawing mixed reviews, from "an expressive journey through a simple man's soul" to "an enormous, steaming pile of shit than misses the toilet bowl with every painful movement," theater-goers are still packing the house every night. Stallone is quick to argue that even the harshest critics have not dismissed the sheer power of the show's finale where Rocky faces his deadliest enemy yet - himself.
"The house is up on their feet, applauding their asses off and screaming while Rocky is beating da shit out of himself," comments Stallone before he punches himself in the face three times.
A bit dazed, he looks this reporter dead in the eye and says, "it's metaphorical."
Rocky: The Musical will enjoy a sold-out run through the spring of next year, right before Stallone begins shooting the eagerly anticipated sequel to the 1984 comedy classic Rhinestone with Dolly Parton.