Rocky makes strong debut on Broadway

Sylvester Stallone wrote the original Rocky book and co-produced the musical

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Rocky The Musical has opened on Broadway, with technical wizardry triumphing over "non-descript" music.

The musical - based on the Oscar-winning movie - is co-written by the film's star Sylvester Stallone.

Set in 1975 Philadelphia, it follows an amateur boxer who gets a surprise shot at the heavyweight championship.

"The finale fight is so visceral and exhilarating that it sends the audience out on a high," writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter.

"Any grumbling about the musical's shortcomings give way to open-mouthed wonder in its spectacular final 20 minutes," adds Rooney.

The final scene sees Rocky battle world champion Apollo Creed in the ring.

"[Alex] Timbers and the creative team have successfully repurposed many of the movie's most iconic moments for the stage, which are greeted with a roar of approval from the audience."

Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone Wesley Snipes was among the celebrities at the opening night

Entertainment Weekly's Thom Geier calls it "a technical knockout" and Variety's Marilyn Stasio calls it "a brilliant piece of staging".

"By the time the big fight comes around, the audience is all warmed up — especially those patrons sitting in the first dozen or so rows of the orchestra who are escorted from their seats and trundled up to the stage and onto bleacher seats to play their collective role as the fight crowd," adds Stasio.

However, AP's Mark Kennedy disagrees, calling the decision to move the audience "baffling". "At this point, Rocky is trying to be immersive. The cost is its soul," he writes.

The musical originally premiered in Hamburg, Germany, in November 2012, where it was generally well-received by critics.

Set designer Chris Barreca, lighting designer Christopher Akerlind and choreographers Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine all earn compliments for their inventive take on bringing Rocky to the stage.

But the music wins less plaudits, with the Hollywood Reporter describing it as "non-descript", "inessential" and "rarely propulsive".

Eye of the Tiger and Bill Conti's Theme from Rocky are both used to good effect. But, "Stephen Flaherty's bland new songs merely shadowbox at melody and never land the pop-rock punch they often seem to be seeking," writes Entertainment Weekly's Geier.

Sylvester Stallone (c) with the musical's stars Andy Karl and Margo Seibert Stallone joined cast members Karl and Seibert at a preview at New York's Winter Garden Theatre

Performers Andy Karl, in the role of Rocky, and Margo Seibert, as his love interest Adrian, also draw praise.

"Happily, the actors are not swallowed up by all the technology," says Variety's Stasio.

While Chris Jones, in the Chicago Tribune, describes them as "likable, disciplined and wisely unsentimental performances".

But ultimately, it is the show's technical wizardry that triumphs.

"There will be no question in theatregoers' minds as they leave the theatre that they have experienced the thrill of a fight," write Jones, in the Chicago Tribune.

"If marketed successfully, Rocky could become for boys and their dads what Wicked is to the girl contingent," remarks Rooney.

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