Glory Ride at Charing Cross Theatre
Landing in full on the West End Stage for the first time, after a series of sold-out staged concerts last year, Glory Ride recounts the dramatic true story of Gino Bartali, set against the backdrop of war torn Florence, Italy. Bartali was a renowned Tour-de-France-winning cyclist who used his fame and influence to smuggle documents – and later children – for the resistance. With the Black Shirts infiltrating his town, Gino risked his life and that of his family’s for the greater good; in the words of our protagonist, “If not him, then who?”.
Written by senior White House economic adviser Todd Buchholz and his daughter Victoria Buchholz, Victoria came across Gino’s story while travelling in Tuscany and knew she had to bring the tale to life. While writing this new musical, the father and daughter team kept asking themselves, “What would we do in this situation?”, which is reflected in their repetitive use of soaring ballads as the characters live out these hardships on stage.
The production makes good use of the space at Charing Cross Theatre, with incredibly detailed sets that depict the Florence backstreets and effectively switch between the intimate confines of the church, where they hid hundreds of children, to the cold headquarters of Mussolini’s Black Shirts. The latter often stalk through the audience in their imposing, dark uniforms as the heroes on stage battle their consciences to define what is right and wrong. This is very effective in bringing the audience into the world of the show, helping us to feel their fears.
Playing Gino and his love Adriana, Josh St Clair and Amy Di Bartolomeo give beautifully rousing performances with impressive voices to match. Likewise, the rest of the cast come together effectively to depict the nuances of these events. The emotional resonance of these scenes is somewhat let down by a score that is lacking in variety.
While the story is a heartwarming one, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Focusing on Gino’s heroism from a place of safety and protection is inspiring but his is not an experience that is easy relate to. Nonetheless, this is a play that displays a lot of heart in its portrayal of an interesting story.
Photo: Marc Brenner
Glory Ride is at Charing Cross Theatre from 22nd April until 29th July 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.