Prepare for the Rocky Balboa stage musical, end of world

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This may be the best idea or the worst idea: there is going to be a stage musical of Rocky. Sylvester Stallone is co-producing the project with Ukranian boxing champs Vladimir and Vitali Klitschko. The title is simply Rocky: The Musical, and it will debut in Hamburg, Germany in November 2012, just in time for the end of the world. No word yet on a stage adaptation of Over the Top.

Stallone said, “At the end of the day, Rocky is a love story and he could never have reached the final bell without Adrian. To see this story coming to life on a musical stage makes me proud. And it would make Rocky proud.”

What’s most surprising is the talent involved. Tony Award nominee Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) is attached to direct. The script will be written by Thomas Meehan, whose credits include Annie, The Producers, and Hairspray. And on top of that, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the team who did Once on This Island and Ragtime, are doing the music, which will include various songs from the series such as “Eye of the Tiger” and “Take You Back.” Seriously, not a Spider Rico in the bunch.

This is one of those things so crazy it just might work, especially given the strong music in most of the Rocky films. After the jump, let’s take a quick look at some of the sounds from the Rocky series.

[Via The Hollywood Reporter]

Take You Back

It seems like there are two songs at the heart of Rocky Balboa: Bill Conti’s iconic “Gonna Fly Now” and “Take You Back” by Sly’s brother Frank Stallone. While the former is the sonic representation of his dreams and better self, “Take You Back” is the humble song of the punched-in low-life palooka. Like “Gonna Fly Now,” the song resurfaces in other films in the series.

Going the Distance

Conti’s “Going the Distance” is an incredibly intense piece of music, often overshadowed by “Gonna Fly Now” but completely essential for the fight montage of the first movie and the training montage of Rocky II. No other song would work as Rocky and Apollo unload toasty haymaker after toasty haymaker; or when Rocky — spurred on by Adrian’s request that he just win — does one-armed pull-ups while Burgess Meredith shouts “Speed!”

Eye of the Tiger

Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” is one of the best things to come out of Rocky III, and works remarkably well with the film’s opening montage. You have the new champ getting complacent while someone who’s hungry and dangerous is rising up to dismantle him. Stallone actually wanted to use Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” for the film but couldn’t get it. He requested Survivor write a song and so a hit single was born.

Hearts on Fire

Rocky IV is an anomaly. There’s basically none of Bill Conti’s score until the end, with music by Vince DiCola instead. Conti was busy doing the music for the Karate Kid series, which was helmed by Rocky director John G. Avildsen. In another interesting switcheroo, Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” was supposed to be the final song of Rocky IV, but it wound up in Karate Kid Part II. So instead of that, we got “Hearts on Fire” by John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, who also did music for Eddie and the Cruisers and contributed a song to Stallone’s Cobra. Really, Cafferty’s song just feel more at place in such a strange, Cannon Films-like take on a Rocky movie.

Living in America

What’s missing from a movie with a robot maid that falls in love with Burt Young? James Brown, that’s what. Now “Living in America” ain’t no “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” or “Get on the Good Foot,” but you know what? It’s Soul Brother Number One making your liver quiver and your bladder splatter. We can all agree that the movie would have been be better if James Brown talked about hot pants and played “Payback” before the final fight in Russia. “I don’t know karate but I know ca-razy!”

Gonna Fly Now

This is one of the most iconic pieces of film music out there. You hear it and it means Rocky and training montages and every bum striving to be something more. What’s interesting is listening to the little variations on “Gonna Fly Now” when it appears in a Rocky film. It’s got a slight disco beat with the bass and drums in Rocky II, for instance, and in Rocky III there’s a little tinkle of clean electric guitar, perhaps to evoke the sunny beaches of the training montage. Whatever form it takes, though, it’s instantly recognizable and one of those songs I just have to listen to until the end.

Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.