Ride at Charing Cross Theatre
Ride is a musical which is catching momentum after an award winning short run at the Vault Festival and a workshop performance at Garrick Theatre. Now running for 3 weeks at the Charing Cross theatre this plucky musical tells the true story of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to cycle around the world in 1894. She does so off the back of a wager with strict conditions as to what counts as success but when she returns to America in 1895 the Latvian Jewish immigrant realises she is still having to work hard to prove herself, despite her accomplishment.
The story of Annie Londonderry is an inspired one for a musical and writers, Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams combine all of the elements wonderfully. There is fact that these remarkable women are getting their stories told but on top of that the story is layered with determination, friendship and love as well as the musings of the difference between truth and reality. There are also many reflections back on todays society, not only about women’s roles but also about how minorities are treated and the lengths that some people can go to in order to escape this. It is a book with many concepts and sometimes it is difficult to express these all within the 90 minutes but Smith and Williams don’t try too hard to cram in expose on all of them and instead plant seedlings.
Smith and Williams frame the story of Annie Londonderry (formerly Annie Kopchovsky) as a job interview for a newspaper, the audience themselves are the interview panel. Annie enlists the help of Martha, a secretary to help her tell her story. This is a clever device as it allows Annie to speak directly to the audience and gives a reason for Martha to play all of the other characters that Annie meets. As the show goes on we flick back to the interview room less and less until the only need for us to do so is Annie’s breakdown, a pivotal moment for both Annie and Martha in the show.
Liv Andrusier takes on the role of Annie and simply put she is sensational. She manages to portray a multi-layered woman in the space of 90 minutes, showing everything from Annie’s tenacity and single mindedness to her devastation and loss of her family. She is the focal point for most of the show and she spins around the stage with the audience unable to take their eyes off her. Her vocals are equally as superb, the demands of the music are varied, from huge belty numbers to a traditional Jewish lullaby/folk song but she never falters.
Opposite Andrusier is Yuki Sutton, playing Martha. Martha starts the show as shy and unsure of herself and if in the hands of a less competent actress could easily fade into the background. Martha however is in great hands with Sutton with wonderful comic timing and a cheeky glint in her eye when Martha finally shakes free her timidness. Whilst the show is about Annie it is actually Martha who blossoms in front of the audiences eyes and she becomes intertwined with the characters she plays and the lines blur as to what Martha is feeling and what the characters felt.
The music in Ride was gripping and had heavy pop influences which really suited both performers voices. (Can I put in a plea now for a cast recording?!) At times the numbers were wordy but there was a lot of story to cram in and I enjoyed the fact that the numbers really moved the action along. This was helped by a combination of wonderful diction from Andrusier and Sutton as well as Andrew Johnson’s sound design which ensured that not a syllable was missed by the audience. The set design by Amy Jane Cook really helped capture the journey that Annie went on and combined with the lighting design by Jamie Platt the audience were transported from an auditorium in London to a customs office in France and beyond.
Ride is a rarity, a new musical that ticks literally all of the boxes that you could want. I recommend booking tickets now whilst you still can.
Ride is on at the Charing Cross Theatre until 17th September. You can find out more and book tickets here.
If you like this review you might also like my review of Diva: Live From Hell at Turbine Theatre, Attenborough and His Animals at Wilton’s Music Hall and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World.