By Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Members: North American Travel Journalists Association
American Society of Journalists and Authors
The distance between New York City and Philadelphia may be only 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 last night when the theatrical version of the film “Rocky” made its debut at the Wintergarden 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. Also walking the red carpet were actress Leslie Snipes, designer Ralph Lauren, actress and comedienne Whoopi Goldberg and 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 with temperatures below freezing without any help from the brisk wind chill, the paparazzi and legitimate photogs dropped professionalism for the moment to take the candy handout from Yale.
The candymeister smiled as he passed out his treats.
“What,” he was asked, “does a product such as Goldernberg’s Peanut Chews have to do with Rocky and his walk down the red carpet.
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 held 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 of the show.
Fifty lucky couples will also receive free tickets to see the show. All they have to do is go to the company’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PeanutChewsCandy to enter for the tickets.
While the candy was receiving two thumbs up from the gathered press, the show itself only managed to garner mixed reviews. O ne critic commented that “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. It’s 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 that he has been involved in. 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 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 has the feel of being in Madison Square Garden.
Give Rokcy a shot. Grab a stip of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews and head for the Wintergarden. Or, better yet, wait until intermission and snag some of the free handouts.