“Rocky is interesting every night,” says Andy Karl. “There’s the full-contact punches, the bloody makeup, the dialogue, the ring spinning, the commentary and the audience reaction.” But Karl doesn’t seem to mind the rigors, high intensity and challenge that keep the show fresh each night. As he explains, it’s worth it just to share the “feast for the eyes, ears and hearts.”
A native of Baltimore, Karl first found his passion for theater when in high school. His parents enrolled him in an after-school theater program to keep him out of trouble. Karl, who got the lead in Aladdin, was smitten. Now the Broadway vet, who recently starred as Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys (he played in 700 performances) and in the revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, has found his niche with Rocky. “I can’t believe I’m a gym-head now,” he says. “I may not be Schwarzenegger, but I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. We’ll see how long it lasts.” Karl took us through a day of vocal trills, physical drills and subway eating rituals.
I wake up pretty much every morning at 3am for about an hour. Sometimes it’s just a weird dream about “saving the world” that wakes me, but most other times it’s a creative idea that pops in my head. A lot of my songs that I write or scripts I’ve penned or unique things I’ve done on stage come to me at that hour. It may be something about getting out of my own head and letting the relaxed state of being take over. Then I read CNN mobile and go back to sleep.
I’m back up again to feed my very ritualized dogs. After the dogs are happy and full, I begin my new Rocky life with a GNC breakfast including a large handful of supplements and vitamins to replenish the body from the beating I had in the ring the night before. Then, perhaps a chai latte from my Keurig coffee maker, followed by a cup of oatmeal to give me some fuel for the gym.
Ah, the gym. Every day at 9:30 for an hour to an hour and a half I have a standing appointment with Crunch. And surprisingly there actually are no judgments there. I have a great trainer, Justin, who looks like Thor. We work together three times a week and I’m on my own the other four days. The only way I think I get through eight shows a week of Rocky is because I’ve built the stamina in the gym. I may not be Schwarzenegger, but I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I can’t believe I’m a gym-head now. We’ll see how long it lasts.
After pumping iron and such, I’ve created a vocal warm-up I do while walking my dog Boo (whom my wife [actress Orfeh] and I adopted from when we were in the show Legally Blonde). It’s mostly vocal trills while buzzing my lips. Sometimes people on the street look at me strange, but I’ve gotten used to it.
Then I’m home to assess the day. Orfeh and I talk about the latest stories on NY1 or gossip shared from friends in the biz. And almost always we talk about how much we want to be in Miami on the beach. It’s our favorite vacation destination and we long for it all the time. It’s going to be at least a year till we go again … I’m sick about it.
Winter time I take the subway to work. Always an adventure on the train. I’m usually cramming a sandwich or apple down my gullet as I get to the platform. Eating on the subway still weirds me out, but I try to conceal my meal so I don’t disturb any non-eating passengers. I get really excited when the train arrives simultaneously to when I get there, but usually I wait for that light to come down the tunnel. Then I hop on and throw on the headphones for some tunes on my iPhone. I pretty much do everything on the iPhone. I’m actually writing these daily details on it now. In summertime I love taking CitiBike to work. An outside jaunt on the West Side Highway bike path allows me to see Manhattan from a unique perspective and breathe in the city air.
Time for my first shower of the day. I’ve become very familiar with my shower at the Winter Garden theatre. Because of the nature of the blood sweat and tears of Rocky I can take up to three or four showers a day. Sound like fun? Not exactly. My skin takes a beating and my hair is starting to resemble the texture of straw. After a show the fake blood and water running down the drain is just like the movie Psycho.
I read a very gracious letter at intermission from a priest who saw Rocky. No joke. He was so inspired by the show that he talked about the Rocky spirit in his sermon, and he wanted to thank me for mine and everyone’s performance. There’s something wonderful about the Rocky story and how it inspires. It feels as if it is ordained. So it’s cool to see it make the “inspirational speakers” use its positive messages. A few minutes later I received a knock at my door from Company Management saying that Will Smith and his family were watching the show tonight and wanted to take a pic with me and a few cast members after the performance. Totally cool.
Will Smith was great. First, he’s from Philly, so he shares Rocky’s hometown. Second, he said smiling, “I haven’t had an experience like that in the theater in a long time.”
I usually crawl into bed around midnight. I used to stay up later, but Rocky is a beast of a performance and I need my sleep. I keep a bottle of water by the bed and my iPhone to write stuff down if 3am finds me up. And I always leave room for buddy Boo.
That’s just a day in the life for me now.