'Rocky' Gets Knocked Out on Broadway

4:02 PM PST 07/15/2014 by David Rooney
Courtesy of Polk and Co.
Andy Karl and Margo Seibert in 'Rocky"

After struggling to draw audiences in sufficient numbers to sustain its high weekly running costs, the Sylvester Stallone-produced musical will close on Aug. 17.

NEW YORK — It's not quite the disaster of Holler If Ya Hear Me, the Tupac Shakur-inspired musical that yesterday announced its swift Broadway exit after only a month. But the humiliating defeat of Rocky is not far behind.

The stage musical adapted from the iconic 1976 best picture Oscar winner about underdog Philadelphia boxer Rocky Balboa will throw its final punch at the Winter Garden Theatre on Sunday, Aug. 17. By the time it closes, the show will have played 28 previews and 188 regular performances.

Financially, the commercial failure represents a major blow to a production that reportedly cost a hefty $15 million, although some sources say more.

Critics generally had high praise for Alex Timbers' direction, in particular the immersive staging of the climactic fight against Apollo Creed, and for Andy Karl's bighearted performance in the title role, which secured him a Tony nomination. But in other key aspects such as the book by Thomas Meehan and Sylvester Stallone, as well as the score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, the show drew tepid reviews.

It won a Tony Award for Christopher Barreca's impressive set design, which featured a full-size boxing ring that flipped out into the theater's orchestra section. But craft honors generally do little to move the box office dial.

VIDEO Tonys: 'Rocky' Touts 'Eye of the Tiger' and Boxing Ring Finale

The show opened a successful world premiere run in fall 2012 in Hamburg, Germany, where it continues to pack houses, and was expected to be a major moneymaker on Broadway. However, since the start of previews on Feb. 13, ticket sales had been disappointing. Grosses improved somewhat after the March 13 official opening, but still struggled to gain momentum, only cracking the $1 million mark once during the busy Easter week.

Marketing was geared to reel in a more predominantly male audience than the standard Broadway demographic, but those efforts never quite clicked.

Sales for last week were $626,984, representing 63% capacity, which brings the show's cumulative total after 22 weeks to $15.4 million. Spearheaded by Stage Entertainment USA and Stallone, the production is expected to close with a complete loss of its initial capitalization.

Stage Entertainment reportedly is exploring options for future productions, both in the U.S. and internationally.

Late last year, the Shubert Organization moved the long-running hit Abba musical Mamma Mia! out of the Winter Garden into a smaller house to make way for Rocky. With the abrupt closing this Sunday of Holler If Ya Hear Me at the Palace, that leaves two of Broadway's biggest theaters without a tenant.

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