Glory Ride, 4 Stars

Glory Ride
Charing Cross Theatre
22 April to 29 July, 2023

GLORY RIDE transports the audience to the golden hills of Tuscany during the darkest days of the Second World War, with a story combining heist, history, humour, and humanity and a soaring new score. Gino Bartali, one of the most beloved of Italian athletes of all time, had a secret life. A Tour de France winner, in the 1940s he was considered the second most famous man in Italy – after Mussolini. His cycling achievements on the Alps and Pyrenees were legendary, but until recently, few knew that he risked his life by saving hundreds of people from fascism during World War II.

With his cycling career as a cover, Bartali cycled thousands of miles between cities across Italy. Hidden in the frame of his bike were falsified identity cards and other secret documents to help victims cross borders to safety. His bravery rescued hundreds of persecuted Jews and other refugees, many of whom were children. In 2013, Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, recognised Gino Bartali with the honour of Righteous Among the Nations.Bartali was a local hero as well as a national figurehead, renowned in his community for his indefatigable commitment to helping others. His story has a powerful message about bravery, loyalty and doing the right thing regardless of the consequences.Victoria Buchholz encountered the story of Gino Bartali while travelling in Tuscany and set out to put it to music as GLORY RIDE, working with her father, Todd, a best-selling author, inventor and senior White House economic adviser.GLORY RIDE was developed through workshops in New York and Los Angeles featuring top Broadway talent, with sold-out staged concerts last year at The Other Palace Theatre in London.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 4 Stars

Everyone loves a success story. A home-grown musical theatre piece that was first performed as a staged concert developing into a fully stage musical is just magical. And this show looks like a West End musical squeezed into a smaller stage.

An impressive set has been built in end-on format in the Charing Cross Theatre. One of the interesting features of the theatre is it’s ability to transform it’s performance and audience configuration. PJ McEvoy has created a very solid traditional looking set that has swing out sides and sliding portals. Subtle use of video projections clarify where we are and map onto the moving set pieces. Yes, there’s a revolve.

With very atmospheric lighting from Rob Halliday there are some beautiful scenes created. The sound  was a little heavy-handed with the echo in the songs but the balance for the cast, band and off-stage backing vocals was very good. The story is solid and clear.

Gino might be the hero of the story, but the stand-out star of the show is Amy Di Bartolomeo playing Adriana. What a powerhouse. She has incredible vocals, acting and charisma!

All these elements take the production into a high quality level of theatre.

But the production is a little lacking when it comes to staging ensemble pieces and there’s no choreographic scenes with multi-part harmonies. The joy of large-scale musical theatre has been sacrificed in favour of too many songs between 2 or 3 actors. It lacks the dynamism and musical numbers that such a large cast could bring. The large cast are already here and on the payroll. There are more off-stage backing vocals sung than on-stage scenarios and this is rather disappointing. If does feel as if someone has taken a full scale musical and scaled it down to leave just a few actors on stage. There is a fantastic musical hiding backstage within this production waiting to be released.

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

Josh St. Clair (as Gino Bartali)
Amy Di Bartolomeo (Adriana Bani)
Fed Zanni (Major Mario Carita)
Daniel Robinson (Giorgio Nico)
Ruairidh McDonald (Felix)
Ryan Bennett (Commander Graziani)
Peter Watts (Fantali)
Jamie Coyne (Cosmo)
Loris Scarpa (Lorenzo)
Susianna Paisio (Rosetta)
Steve Watts (Torello)
Alice Spigariol (ensemble)

Director Kelly Devine
Associate Director Ricky J. Hinds
Musical Director Dave Rose
Set, Costume & Video Designer PJ McEvoy
Lighting Designer Rob Halliday
Orchestrations Jen Green
Casting Director Harry Blumenau
General Management Smart Entertainment
Italian cultural adviser Federico Bellone
Producers Glory Ride 2023 Ltd

Charing Cross Theatre
The Arches
Villiers Street
London WC2N 6NL
Box office: 08444 930650

Saturday 22 April to 29 July, 2023

Performances: Monday to Saturday evenings at 7.30pm
Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm
Prices: from £25.00
Premium seats
add programme and glass of bubbly for only £7.50 extra.
A £2.50 booking fee applies to phone and internet orders;
no booking fee to in person over the counter sales.
A restoration levy applies to all tickets
The box office is open from 2 hours before curtain time on performance days for in person sales

Twitter: @GloryRideShow
Instagram: @GloryRideShow