Following a short run of workshop performances in The Other Palsce studio last year, Glory Ride now has its full premiere at Charing Cross Theatre, directed and choreographed by Kelly Devine.
Written by father-daughter duo Todd Buchholz and Victoria Buchholz, this new musical takes the story of champion cyclist Gino Bartali and his heroics in the Fascist Italy of World War Two.
The setting is Florence, where the tourist settings remain, but posters of Il Duce are on every corner, his Blackshirts ramping up disappearances and brutality to “save Italy.” No one is safe, everyone is suspicious.
Bartali (a tireless Josh St Clair), who has overcome family tragedy a few years earlier, is at first cocky, assured, and in pursuit of medals without thought of the political background.
His childhood friend, Mario (Fed Zanni, making the most of a tricky role), is content to seek out and kill children, particularly those of Jewish heritage; Bartali, assisting the local Cardinal (a knock-out turn from Niall Sheehy) in the Resistance, determines to help and protect the innocents.
Glory Ride‘s score has sweeping melodies and hummable moments, even finding a chance in act two to raise a semi-humorous song about accountancy, closely followed an explanatory number between Bartali and his father (a dignified Steve Watts).
As painter and love interest for Bartali, Amy Di Bartolomeo’s Adriana has ample opportunity to dominate musically, while Ruairidh McDonald’s budding violinist turned killing machine Felix has an affecting piece highlighting the dark side of conscription.
The other major character, Giorgio ‘Nico’ Nissim, is a nervous numbers man who has a complex character to navigate while convincing as the brains of the rescue outfit. Daniel Robinson achieves all this while displaying fine vocals.
PJ McEvoy’s set has doors and arches, projections, and backdrops to suggest changing times and places, while the lighting by Rob Halliday adds grandeur and atmosphere, notably in “800 Souls”.
With all the elements for a major show in place, Glory Ride is an intriguing night at the theatre, highlighting a hidden story of bravery and horror with a spirited score.
Image credit: Marc Brenner