Glory Ride has an excellent original score performed by an incredibly talented cast. It is led by Josh St. Clair as Gino Bartali, whose impressive vocals are complemented by the stunning set design and innovative lighting design. These come together to create the cycle ride of a lifetime, as the French Alps that Bartali travels over, and the Florentine Piazza in which much of the plot takes place.
The sensational Amy Di Bartolomeo, plays Adriana, a Florentine artist, and the production beautifully encapsulates the love between her and Gino, through intimate duets and equally stunning solos. Di Bartolomeo shines throughout with fantastically impressive vocals and St.Clair conveys the character and emotion of Bartali whilst riding a bike onstage in a feat of vocal and physical stamina. The set of Florence, designed by PJ McEvoy, is especially beautiful and the use of minimal moving pieces to depict the inside of the church is clever and effective. Coupled with excellent lighting design by Rob Halliday an ethereal scene is depicted whilst warm, bright lighting creates a hot day in the piazza.
The first act introduces context of Bartali’s development as a young cyclist, his journey to win the 1938 Tour De France, and the growing political unrest in Italy. It is a lot of historical material to cover and there are moments when the book is slightly rushed. This does, however, allow the second act to explore fully the complicated internal emotions, conflicting interests, and decision making of the lead characters. The show considers how and why ordinary Italian citizens became aligned with Mussolini’s ‘blackshirts’ and how this affected their personal beliefs. This is done mostly through the character Major Mario Carita, played by Fed Zanni, whose complex portrayal of a young church turned member of Mussolini’s fascists is paired with excellent vocals.
Daniel Robinson, as Giorgio ‘Nico’ Nissim provides some fantastic comedic moments, interspersed throughout a heightened, emotional show. When he is able to finally describe, to a young Jewish boy, his motivation for supporting the Resistance, the audience is equally overcome with emotion. Niall Sheehy meanwhile brings dramatic presence to each scene as Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, who is a consistent advocate for fighting against the Mussolini regime. His ballads leave the audience reflective, and the book’s ability to propel the narrative through religious confessions is excellent.
Jamie Coyne and Loris Scarpa as Cosmo and Lorenzo, two young Jewish boys seeking refuge in the church, represent a whole group of targeted people who relied on the covert support of the Resistance to get them to safety. For Bartali they also provide a heartbreaking parallel with his young brother, and remind him of his need to protect those he loves.
This is a highly emotional show that made me cry. It has moments of comedy and of heartbreak, but what the talented ensemble of performers do so well is depict ordinary people in 1940s Italy with an extraordinary willingness and desire to fight for what is right. It tells a lesser known history of an unsung hero who didn’t seek glory, but when he found fame used it to save persecuted people. St. Clair puts everything into this character, creating a heartfelt, inspiring portrayal of Gino Bartali.
The Charing Cross Theatre is a beautiful, intimate venue that has put on several fantastic productions in the last year alone. They use the space well and create a lovely atmosphere for a night at the theatre, showcasing talented musicians, crew, and performers in innovative productions such as Glory Ride.
Book by: Victoria Buchholz and Todd Buchholz
Music and Lyrics by: Victoria Buchholz
Direction and Choreography by: Kelly Devine
Musical Direction by: Dave Rose
Set, Video and Costume Design by: PJ McEvoy
Sound Design by: Andrew Johnson
Lighting Design by: Rob Halliday
Glory Ride plays at Charing Cross Theatre until 29 July. Further information and bookings can be found here.