Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fight from the Heart

Before I wrap up my Finnish summer theatre tour, I want to tell you about a musical I just saw. A musical that, to be honest, blew my mind.

I didn't understand a word of Rocky the Musical's Hamburg production. It's one of the most amazing theatrical performances I've ever experienced.

Rocky the musical is of course based on Rocky the movie, the classic film that features boxing and Sylvester Stallone. I have never watched the film. Visiting Hamburg with a friend, we went to see the musical adaptation because it stars Drew Sarich in the titular role. It was a simple decision: after a certain amount of Youtube videos featuring someone, you can't really skip the chance to see them live.

So. I expected to see a silly, over-the-top, loud and macho spectacle with no deeper meaning, all glitter and no substance, featuring an actor whose performance I would probably enjoy.

That's pretty much exactly how it was. And I loved it from literally the first second until the very end.

Seriously. From the first note, played loud enough to rid my mind of all unrelated thoughts, I knew I was going to have a great time. By the intermission, I was giggling with excitement. And the second act - training montage, Eye of the Tiger, audience members from the front rows being relocated onstage as the boxing ring was rolled into the auditorium... I felt like I was a part of the story, there to cheer Rocky Balboa to the victory, instead of watching a piece of musical theatre.

Sometimes you need a good dose of mindless entertainment. Rocky the musical is a first-class example of that. And the best part? I don't speak any German and therefore felt all this joy without understanding a word of what they said onstage. Actually, I am certain that had I understood the actors, I would have enjoyed the musical less.

Not knowing the language and only being familiar with a short synopsis of the story made me experience the show in a unique way. No analysing, no comparing, no getting distracted by any clunky rhymes. Just the music and the performances and the feelings they conveyed.

Combine that with the sheer spectacle of the production, the countless charmingly realistic and swiftly changing sets, the lights and the video screens, the flawless fight choreography that made me forget they're not boxing for real...

Wonderful. Refreshing. So much fun.

I don't think most musicals would work this well with such a huge language barrier. In most cases, I think it's better to familiarise yourself with a show before seeing it in a foreign language. But Rocky, with its simple storyline and strong feelings, with its loud music and bloodied noses... It felt so real, and at the same time it's one of the silliest, most overblown spectacles I've ever seen onstage.

I never would have thought I'd enjoy this show so much. A surprising, wonderful, borderline cathartic night to remember.

Photos by Morris Mac Matzen and Brinkhoff/Mögenburg.


  1. Oho vau. Enpä tiennyt että Rockysta on musikaali. Elokuva on, nyt kun sitä ajattelen, yksi suuria elokuvasuosikkejani. Tämä on ehdottomasti musikaali, jonka haluaisin nähdä, vaikka sitten saksaksi.

    1. Itse en ole elokuvaa katsonut, enkä tiedä, uskallanko sitä vielä hetkeen katsoakaan – jotenkin en juuri nyt halua sekoittaa upeaan musikaalikokemukseen muita versioita. Mutta ehkä ajallaan tutustun leffaankin! Harmi kyllä Saksan-tuotanto musikaalista pyörii enää pari viikkoa. Mutta voisi kuvitella, että teos tekee tulevaisuudessa vielä paluun johonkin päin maailmaa, et liene ainoa joka listaa elokuvan suosikikseen...

  2. I'm glad you liked it so much! It really is great going into a musical you're not sure about and coming out absolutely loving it.