The distance between New York City and Philadelphia may only be about 94 miles, but the cultural separation may as well be as wide as the Grand Canyon. New Yorkers have always considered anything west of the Hudson River to be culturally deprived.
That gap closed a bit when the theatrical version of the film “Rocky” recently made its debut at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway.
Rocky Balboa himself was there in the persona of Sylvester Stallone. Also walking the red carpet to the theater were Burt Young who played Paulie in the original Rocky series, actress Leslie Snipes, designer Ralph Lauren, actress and comedienne Whoopi Goldberg and Dave Yale.
Dave Yale? While the big names caught the flash bulbs of the horde of media piled onto risers in front of the theater waiting to snap celebrity pictures, Yale was the most popular person walking the carpet.
Yale is president and chief operating officer of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, an iconic Philadelphia treat. Yale had a pocketful of his company’s product and filled the hands of photographers who almost tipped the risers reaching for the snack.
As bitterly cold as it was, the paparazzi and legitimate photogs dropped professionalism for a moment to take the candy handout from Yale.
The candy meister smiled as he passed out his treats.
“What does a product such as Goldernberg’s Peanut Chews have to do with Rocky and his walk down the red carpet,” he was asked.
Yale noted that there was an affinity with the show since Rocky, the character, was a Philadelphia native and icon known the world over. His Peanut Chews have had the same station in Philadelphia since the early part of the last century. There was also a tie-in to the show, as theatergoers will receive free Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews during the intermission.
Fifty lucky couples will also receive free tickets to see the show through a contest the company is holding. All they have to do is go to its Facebook page to enter.
While the candy was receiving two thumbs up from the gathered press, the show itself only managed to garner mixed reviews. One critic said the “Rocky musical lacks punching power.”
Perhaps much of the problem lies in attempting to convert any movie to the Broadway stage. Many legitimate shows have made the trip to Hollywood and come out as winners. The “Sound of Music” comes to mind because of the way in which movies were able to actually film in mountains and have a much greater availability for presentation.
The constraints of a theatrical stage has brought any number of movies that have made the trek to New York to their knees because of the inability to give the audience the same breadth and scope as the film.
Rocky, starring Andy Karl as Rocky Balboa, isn’t likely to go for the count. Its score is lively and the performances strong. Frequently when audiences dismiss the critics and make up their own mind, shows and movies become runaway successes. Unfortunately reviewers often become jaded after seeing shows on a near-nightly basis.
That may very well be the case with Rocky. One of the producers, Jim Kierstead, has had a golden touch with recent shows in which he has been involved. His “Kinky Boots” is the fourth highest grossing show on the Great White Way and “Pippin” hasn’t exactly been a slouch either.
One innovative staging event moves the first seven rows of the audience onto bleacher seats on stage, leaving the front rows empty. A boxing ring is then moved over those rows. Jumbotrons are also moved into place and the audience feels as if it’s inside of Madison Square Garden.
Give Rocky a shot. Grab a bar of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews and head for the Winter Garden. Or, better yet, wait until intermission and snag some of the free handouts.