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REVIEW: Drayton Entertainment’s Rocky: The Musical a knockout

The champ - Aaron Walpole, Alex Kelly and Lee MacDougall star in Drayton Entertainment Rocky: The Musical, on stage now at the Hamilton family Theatre in Cambridge.  Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.

REVIEW: Drayton Entertainment’s Rocky: The Musical a knockout

by Jaime Myslik

CAMBRIDGE - Is it a boxing match or a musical?

At times throughout Rocky: The Musical the line is blurred and it’s only the slow motion punches that remind the audience the fight isn’t actually real.

Rocky: The Musical is on stage at the Hamilton Family Theatre in Cambridge until March 31.

The show, based on the 1976 Academy Award-winning film Rocky, tells the story of struggling small-time boxer Rocky Balboa, who gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fight heavyweight champ Apollo Creed in south Philadelphia.

From a reviewer who has yet to experience the movie, Rocky: The Musical tells a full and comprehensive story that leaves few to no holes in the plot, which is not always the case with stage adaptations of films.

Alex Kelly took on the mammoth role of Rocky Balboa, the part made famous by Sylvester Stallone.

Kelly not only embodied the physique and mannerisms of a seasoned boxer, his speech patterns mirrored Stallone’s unique cadence.  While somewhat of a hindrance to his vocal performance in the first half of the show, Kelly really found his voice in the second half, not an easy feat while he’s expected to sing and box and run all at once.

Kelly was also able to master the subtle art of running on the spot. That may sound trivial, but in a musical about boxing and training, running on the spot to the beat of a song is imperative. Kelly was so proficient that at times a double take was necessary to ensure he wasn’t actually running on a treadmill.

Christopher James played the charismatic Apollo Creed.

Both Kelly and James deserve special recognition for the big fight. Both actors were so committed to their roles that at times the audience was lost in the action, cheering on Rocky, momentarily forgetting they were watching a musical.

Director Alex Mustakas, choreographer Phil Nero and fight director Joe Bostick proved that boxing can be adapted into a musical.

In numerous scenes what looks to be a training exercise is expertly choreographed to the subtle beat of the music.

And die-hard fans shouldn’t fear, the Rocky theme song and Eye of the Tiger are used liberally throughout the show.

However, the original songs written for the musical didn’t seem out of place. While it could have been weird and awkward to see boxers singing, music director Steve Thomas did an excellent job to ensure everything flowed naturally.

Other lead cast members - including Jayme Armstrong as Rocky’s love interest Adrian, Lee MacDougall as gym owner Mickey, and Aaron Walpole as Rocky’s best friend Paulie - all had standout vocal performances throughout the show.

Set designer Brian Dudkiewicz created Rocky’s life in southern Philadelphia so realistically the audience sometimes forgot the boxing ring wasn’t real or that the brick wall wasn’t really the side of a building.

In an interesting story telling strategy, Mustakas and Dudkiewicz used television newscasts to push the plot forward without leaving the audience confused and without frivolously wasting time explaining complexities of the plot.

Costume designer Adrienne Pink expertly transformed the boxers’ appearances as they moved through each of the matches, talking them from their clean cut TV-ready appearance to the grisly boxer reality of blood and swelling without the audience realizing it was even happening.

Rocky: The Musical will appeal to all ages, even those who have not seen the movie.

It is on stage at the Hamilton Family Theatre in Cambridge until March 31. Tickets are $48 for adults and $29 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets for groups of 20 or more and selected discount dates are $39.

Tickets may be purchased at, at the box office, or by calling 519-621-8000 or toll free 1-855-372-9866.

March 13, 2019


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