Round Seven

By: Apr. 15, 2024
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The Music Theatre Kansas City – (Pro) KC Premiere production of the 2014’s Broadway version of “Rocky the Musical” is surprisingly worth your time.  It is hard to have avoided Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky Franchise” beginning as a sleeper, low budget film hit in 1976.  So far there have been six “Rocky” movies plus several follow-on films based on the career of the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s original opponent and eventual friend.

“Rocky The Musical” follows a trend in musical theater.  Where films have traditionally found their source material on the stage, the cost of live production has caused producers to flip their method.  The idea is that films have established a large pre-built audience.   The hope is that the name recognition from the pre-built audience can reduce the financial risk of mounting the stage production for the producers.  

Music Theatre Kansas City Pro is an outgrowth of a longtime young people’s training program originally beginning in Wichita in 1984.   It performs in Shawnee Kansas inside the B&B Theater 18 screen multiplex.  The three hundred seat Theater Number Seven has been put aside for live performances.  It is a very comfortable audience space, but less so for performers and producers.  The ability to store and construct scenery may be significantly limited.


“Rocky the Musical” has an interesting history.  The original libretto is credited to Stallone himself and to Thomas Meehan.  Stallone, of course, wrote the original “Rocky” screenplay.  Meehan is known for similar playscripts for “Annie,” "The Producers,” “Hairspray,” “Young Frankenstein,”  “Elf,” and "Limelight.”    The score has been contributed from the original films and from new songs by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.  The pair have written scores for many shows including notably “My Favorite Year," “Ragtime,” “Anatasia,” and “Once on this Island.”

The original producers were Stallone and Ukrainian Heavyweight Champions Vitali and Waldimir Klitischko. Vitali Klitischko is a former member of the Ukrainian Parliament and the current Mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine. Wladimir retired from boxing in 2017 and currently serves as a member of the Kyiv Territorial Defense Brigade and as a fundraiser for his country. Both brothers speak four languages.

The production history of “Rocky the Musical,” is a little odd.   It premiered in 2012 at Hamburg Germany after being translated into German.  The show transferred to Broadway in the original English at the Winter Garden Theater in New York beginning February 2014.  The show ran for 28 previews and 188 performances.


The MTKC PRO production positioned a ten-piece orchestra in full view on stage.  Following the overture and a choreographed “club fight,” the quality of the show unexpectedly takes off. A background ensemble sings “Ain’t Down Yet.” 

The opening scene is less than riveting, but in the next scene Drew Starlin as Rocky Balboa enters the rundown “Rocky” apartment and becomes his character.  He wears the black leather coat and porkpie hat and becomes Rocky Balboa.  The walk is there.  The posture is there.  Drew Starlin (Rocky Balboa) sings “My Nose Ain’t Broken” and  Rocky’s singing voice is exactly what you might hope Rocky would sound like.

Jasmine Hall is Adrian, the poor, shy pet shop worker with whom Rocky is entranced.  Like the Rocky character, Adrian is not given the immediate material she needs to connect with the audience.  She gets the chance to connect and does during a super duet with Rocky on “The Flip Side.”

Adrian’s big song is a second act torch song number called “I’m Done.”  Hall has a very nice, strong voice.    She knocks the big song out of the park.

Both leading characters are very good and connect to each other and to the audience.   They are the show. 

Supporting them well is Shane St. James as Apollo Creed.  St. James is good as Creed but does have some difficulty with some first act low notes.


The theater facility is backed by a movie screen.  Director Julie Danielson has utilized the theater screen to create most backdrops, special films were made to capture the training sequences with the local actors and even the climatic fight scene.  The Nelson Atkins Museum stands in  for the famous Philadelphia steps.  The motion sections were filmed locally with the local actors.   The videos are well done and well-integrated.  As the actors perform in front of the projections, the effect is quite positive.

“Rocky” is not an easy show.  This production does have some rough edges.  The audio video visuals are positives. The lead actors are positives.  Choreography is a positive.  The orchestra is a positive.   The ensemble is a positive.  The short run in New York from respected playwrights and score composers speaks for itself.

In the future, I wonder if this facility might be most effectively utilized to present concert versions of Broadway shows.  The place is comfortable. The sound is excellent.  The lighting equipment is good.  This approach might sand off a few production rough edges by requiring less from supporting actors.

“Rocky, The Musical” continues at the B&B Theatres multiplex at Shawnee through April 28.  Tickets are available online at or through the B&B ticket office.    

Photos courtesy of MTKC-Pro 


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