Glory Ride at Charing Cross Theatre

Glory Ride is a new musical to hit London. It is based on the true story of Tour de France winning cyclist Gino Bartali who, whilst working with Cardinal of Florence, Elia Dalla Costa and accountant Nico, hid and smuggled Jews and other refuges out of Italy to safety. We learn how Bartali convinces his childhood fried Mario Costa to grant him unique access to come and go in and out of Florence as he pleases under the guise of training and uses this to smuggle forged passports to further afield places and later children to the Swiss boarder, all whilst being the face of Florence for Mussolini to avoid suspicion and ensure his loved ones safety. The story itself is great source material full of history, drama and of course a smattering of romance.

The book by Victoria Buchholz and Todd Buchholz has some strong moments but could benefit with a reexamination in parts. There is a lot to fit into this story and maybe the lineal narrative of this show didn’t help, it gave the writer no choice but to start with the death of Gino’s brother. This happens so quickly there is no time to build up any sympathy for Gino or his family. The rest of the first Act spends a lot of time building up characters and it was only until Act 2 kicked in that the real drama began and the audience seemed to sit up and take notice. As there is a lot of drama to cram into this show there also isn’t much light relief and as such Glory Rides can feel a bit earnest and relentless at times.

The book also doesn’t give enough time to invest in all of the relationships that are portrayed on stage. Gino’s friendship with Mario seemed to lack heart and his relationship with Adriana (who Mario was also in love with) didn’t have high enough stakes. Add on top of this his fatherly role to Cosmo and his relationship with his parents the book tries to cover a lot of ground but leaves each of Gino’s connections somewhat underwhelming.

The music by Victoria Buchholz helped develop the plot and there were beautiful moments within it. That being said the show lacked any real ear worms and I left the theatre struggling to remember the tune of any of them.

The cast all portrayed their characters wonderfully. Josh St Clair took on the role of Gino Bartali and he succeeded in helping the audience understand just how conflicted he was at many points of his career. He also struck the balance between the confidence that Gino had to have for his celerity status in contrast to his self-depreciating role in saving many others. Amy DiBartolomeo played Adriana Bani and her rendition of Promises was one of the highlights of the show for me. She came across as wonderfully fiery and genuine in this role and her numbers really showcases her powerhouse vocal ability. Daniel Robinson played Nico and at moments he threatened to steal the show, in particular his heart wrenching divulgence in Act 2 along with his number ‘Green Eye Shades,’ meant that this was a memorable performance.

Glory Ride has a lot of potential, with interesting source material and a very talented cast but before it can achieve accolades similar to those that of Gino himself the book needs development and the music some tweaks to help ensure that this would be a cast recording that I would want to return to time and time again.

Glory Ride is on at Charing Cross Theatre until 29th July. You can find out more and book tickets on their website.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Betty Blue Eyes at The Union Theatre, The Ocean at The End of the Lane and Guys & Dolls at Bridge Theatre.

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