By Stan Silliman
ROCKY THE MUSICAL: CAN SILLIMAN HELP
"Yo, Adrian, watch dat. People in da front row watching everything we do."
That's Rocky the Musical, a new Broadway project with Stallone's blessing? Can they improve on perfection? Rocky, the movie, was gold. It's hard to beat real gold.
Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, a Tony Award-winning songwriting team, along with scriptwriter Thomas Meehan are adapting the movie to the stage. These guys are swimming in credits.
Meehan won three Tony's with scripts for Annie, Hairspray, and The Producers. Ahrens and Flaherty took a Tony with Ragtime, and Ahrens herself wrote songs for Schoolhouse Rock and Captain Kangeroo.
Lynn and Stephen have worked together on many Broadway shows like A Man of No Importance and Suessical, and they also wrote the songs for the animated movie Anastasia.
So here's the question: How well do these guys know boxing? Would they know a cut man from a tap dancer? Would they know a journeyman sparing partner from a ballerina?
Here's an even more important question: Do they need Silliman to help them out? Surely they'll need to determine what to rhyme with "Yo, Adrian!"
I can help. Silliman can help. The play is scheduled to open in Germany in 2012. If it's received well there, then it's on to Broadway. "Hallo! Frau Adrian!"See? I can help.
Here's what would make it more Rocky-like: Use unknowns, or at least those not known for singing and dancing, in the lead roles. That's what made Rocky a fascinating story—an unknown club boxer gets a shot at the title.
What made it even more of a lovable-underdog story was that the writer, director, and star, Sylvester Stallone, was equally as unknown. We pulled for both—Rocky to go the distance and Sly to win an Oscar.
For it to work on Broadway, it needs a few of the same elements.
If we use a big star, let it be one known by all not to be a singer or dancer. If we pick a total unknown for the Rocky role, let it be someone with singing and dancing potential, but one who has yet to prove his ability.
For the German version, I'm suggesting Arnold as Rocky. They love him in Germany. If he sings and dances a little, it'll be a winner.
The headlines will read "SCHWARTZENEGGER AS ROCKY. HE FIGHTS DA SCHWARTZA"
But then, the director must make sure Arnold stays in character. It wouldn't do for him to go, "Yo, Adrian, ein fighten Apollo da schwartza. Funny, yah, since mein name ish Schwarztenegger."
Plus, don't let Arnold suggest changing Adrian's occupation from waitress to housekeeper. Or her name from Adrian to Mildred. That wouldn't do either.
Stop that, Arnold, you're ruining my suggestions."Well, then I may go back to CAL-EEE-FORN-I-YAH."
For the American stage, I say mix it up. We can't beat gold, so let's flip the script and add some elements of Rocky II and III to make it a tour de' force. Bring Mike Tyson in to play Clubber Lang (the Mr. T. role). He's a boxer everyone knows who wants to act. Let's let him sing and dance, too.
"I bit the ear off Evander... I bit the ear... off... EVANDER!
I pity the fool who saw Zoolander!!
Evander... Zoolander. Evander... Zoolander! EVANDER...ZOOLANDER!
Let's call the whole thing OFF!"
Then, for the Rocky role, go total unknown I'm suggesting the young boxer I mentioned in the chess-boxing article—Kid Syd Jones. Syd is strong, good enough of a boxer to do the boxing moves, and a strong chess player. In the stage version of Rocky, I say flip it by having Rocky Balboa brought up from the chess-boxing league.
Make it seem as though Apollo Creed wants to prove he's not only the greatest fighter, but also smart. Smart enough that he thinks he can beat Balboa on the chess board as well as in the ring.
They'll love that in Germany, the home of chess-boxing.
Balboa throws a few punches,
steps out of the
ring. The ring is dragged behind the curtain. A chess board
front of the curtain. Balboa looks up and says, "I'll checkmate Creed
four moves. He underestimated me."
Then Rocky walks to stage front. It's dreary, dark, and dank.
"I've been discounted all my life... They called me a street punk from Philly.... ALL My Life!You'll never amount to beans... They'll break your ribs, your head... and your jeans...In the big cardboard box ... in the alley. The big cardboard box in the alley.
You'll be penniless... on the street. On the street... without...means."
Then, the scene brightens up. Sunlight appears, birds chirping.
"Yo, Adrian! I've got a chance at the title. I've got a date with Apollo."
Rocky starts running (stage-running, in place). Steps appear ahead. The music swells.
"Adrian, this is our chance!" Then, he starts to sing.
"I've got a date with Apollo! I'll eat raw eggs, yes, I'll swallow. I'm runnin' the streets. Please don't follow. 'Cause I've got a date. I've... got...a... date... with...Apollo!"Lynn and Stephen, did you get any ideas? Any Silliman things usable? All I'd want are four tickets, center, rows three to six, and it doesn't have to be opening night. You're welcome.
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