IT HAS BEEN said that there are no such things as problems, only opportunities. Well, here's an opportunity for Philadelphia to make lemonade out of a Broadway lemon.
"Rocky," the musical based on the iconic 1976 rags-to-riches film about a ham-and-egg boxer from Kensington, closed its Broadway run last August, a mere five months after its much-hyped debut. But just because New York wasn't a hospitable host doesn't mean that Rocky Balboa's hometown couldn't be. From this vantage point, bringing the musical to Philly as a permanent attraction is a no-brainer.
Right off the bat, there's no doubt about the revered status of the film and its five sequels among area residents and visitors. Drive past the Philadelphia Museum of Art at any hour, and you're likely to see someone clambering up the steps a la the "Italian Stallion." Visiting Philly and not hitting the steps or taking a selfie at the nearby Rocky statue is like coming here and not having a cheesesteak.
So, after a day of traveling in Rocky's footsteps (with or without Sylvester Stallone look-alike Mike Kunda's "Yo Philly! Rocky Tour"), why not watch a "live" Rocky sing, dance and box his way across a stage?
Hotels could promote the show by offering tickets with hotel rooms. Conventions could book blocks of seats.
There's undeniable local appeal, too.
Has any city ever adopted a fictional character as its cultural avatar with as much fervor as we have claimed Rocky Balboa? There's no question we Philuffyans see ourselves in him: beaten up, beaten down and disrespected - but ultimately triumphant thanks to grit, perseverance and a heaping helping of addytood.
And "Rocky" is probably the most Philly-centric stage show ever, with a script that references such local totems as the Spectrum, the El, Snyder Avenue and Channel 6. (Of course, changing the many references about the "Southside" to "South Philly" is a must.)
The musical's producers, the globally spread Stage Entertainment, estimated that some 10 percent of the people who saw "Rocky" in New York were from the Delaware Valley.
Likewise, there's no doubting Stallone's love of Our Town: He's been here for a while shooting "Creed," the seventh installment of his signature film series.
Of course, bringing a permanent "Rocky" production to town wouldn't be a snap. For starters, what venue would accommodate eight performances a week 40 or more weeks a year?
The best fit would be the Forrest Theatre, centrally located at 11th and Walnut. As one of the most historic theaters in the country, it has handled countless Broadway-caliber productions. And it seems to be available: The April 28 to May 10 run of Tony Award-winner "Kinky Boots" is the first (and, so far, only) event booked for 2015 - and the sole attraction since last summer's "Book of Mormon."
The Merriam Theater, though its owner, the University of the Arts, keeps it pretty booked, as do outside promoters. Or the Prince Music Theater, though that's in financial limbo and, with a capacity of 446 seats, probably too small to be profitable.
But, as we said earlier, these aren't problems, but opportunities that fit perfectly with the city's marketing philosophy as well as our own Cheez-Whiz-slathered volksgeist.
To paraphrase a former New Jersey governor - the theatrical "Rocky" and Philadelphia: perfect together.
Talk about using every trick in the book.
That pretty much sums up what's going on at the Academy of Music through Sunday, as the venerable auditorium hosts the Broadway-certified magic show, "The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible."
Virtually every genre of prestidigitation - from card tricks and the sawing-a-person-in-half bit to transforming objects and making them vanish altogether - is on display. And in the hands of the program's seven wizards, the result is a hocus-pocus fest of the first order.
Space doesn't permit a listing of all the you-gotta-see-'em-to-believe-'em illusions in the two, hour-long acts. But our votes for the most mind-boggling include the incredible variation on the slicing-a-body-in-two piece performed by Kevin James (a/k/a "The Inventor") and the nifty sequence of optical illusions that Adam Trent ("The Futurist") pulls off with the help of a giant video screen.
And special mention must be made of Atlantic City vet Jeff Hobson, whose technical prowess is matched and possibly exceeded by his goofy stage persona (think Steve Martin meets Rip Taylor) and his groaningly bad (and sidesplittingly funny) one-liners.
It's no illusion that "The Illusionists" is the most fun you'll find in Center City this weekend.