Glory Ride – A New Musical
The Other Palace, London
Theatre investors are becoming increasingly inclined to dip their toes in the water before committing the hundreds of thousands of pounds it takes to mount a West End show. They book a venue, invite the press and some punters in over a few nights and see what the vibe is.
There’s an argument to say there’s no point reviewing a production that will have closed by the time the review appears, but then again, critics have a part to play in the theatrical ecosystem. All too often we are involved in closing productions, but this new trend allows us to actually have a say in whether a show gets to open.
The writing in Glory Ride – A New Musical feels raw and so do the lyrics, but this show has a fascinating yarn to tell. It focuses on Gino Bartali’s war years under Mussolini. The legendary cyclist won the Tour de France in 1938 and again in 1948, but his life under the black shirts has largely been overlooked.
James Darch plays Bartali as a square-jawed hero involved in a power struggle with Neil McDermott’s dastardly Major Carita as he tries to save the lives of hundreds of souls in the regime’s bad books.
The father-and-daughter writing team of Victoria and Todd Buchholz wrote the script and the music and lyrics as a labour of love. There are some good lines in the script, and there are unsettling contemporary resonances with the “full fascist press” doing all they can to prop up the dictatorship.
It’s uneven and a bit messy, but full of promise. Marcus Harman takes the
acting honours as a young violinist forced to give up his dreams when he falls foul of the monsters running his country. It’s a thumbs-up from me.