Set in the early 1940s, Glory Ride depicts the true story of famous cyclist Gino Bartali, who helped smuggle Jews out of Italy during Mussolini’s dictatorship.

Credit: Marc Brenner

Leading the cast as Bartali is Josh St. Clair, who portrays the charming, irreverent celebrity sportsman very well, whilst also displaying fantastic vocal ability – often on a bike, no less. He also delivers in Bartali’s moments of fear and doubt and is wonderfully vulnerable when portraying Gino’s rocky relationship with his parents.

Amy Di Bartolomeo shines as Bartali’s wife Adriana, gracing the audience with her stunning voice and beautiful acting choices. Her impressive solo ‘Promises’ and gorgeous duet with St. Clair ‘I Never Learnt To Say Goodbye’, were highlights of the show, although I would’ve loved to have seen her have more to do. We never quite dig into the depths of their relationship, and the vague love triangle between Gino, Adriana, and Gino’s childhood best friend Major Mario Carita is only briefly mentioned towards the end of the show.

Another stand-out performance comes from Daniel Robinson as Giorgio “Nico” Nissim, Bartali’s manager. Robinson displays an excellent flair for comedy as the harried, easily-panicked Nico, but also handles his poignant duet with a young Jewish boy extremely well. Fed Zanni also did well with the underdeveloped character of Major Mario Carita, showing his descent down a darker path than he could have foreseen, struggling with his conflicting morals as he fights against his hero friend.

Credit: Marc Brenner

The show started in what felt like an odd place, with Bartali already having been established as a talented cyclist and popular citizen. There is a tragic accident involving Gino’s younger brother barely thirty seconds into the show, followed swiftly by a power ballad where Gino grapples with his indecision over whether he should continue cycling or not. This song felt like an eleven o’clock number put in the show far too early, and it would’ve been far more impactful if we’d seen more of Gino’s close relationship with his brother and his love of cycling beforehand.

While I appreciate there was an awful lot of dramatic history to pack into this show, it lacks the necessary character development and detailed relationships that can help make a piece of theatre emotionally moving. The story is fascinating and Gino’s mission was highly dangerous, but the stakes just don’t feel that high because we don’t feel strongly enough about the characters to root for their success.

Credit: Marc Brenner

Technically the show is strong, with some simple but effective moving set pieces and projections showing the transition from the piazza to the church. PJ McEvoy’s set combined with Rob Halliday’s sunny lighting evokes the feel of a quaint Italian town on the outskirts of Florence perfectly. The Italian accents are inconsistent, particularly when singing – a choice perhaps should’ve been made to eradicate them entirely in the style of shows such as Les Miserables. Victoria Buchholz’s songs sound pleasant along with Dave Rose’s soaring band, but few of the songs are catchy enough to be memorable after they finish.

On the whole, the subject matter of Glory Ride definitely has the potential to become a stunning musical – but this iteration currently rides with some slightly wobbly legs.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Glory Ride is on at Charing Cross Theatre until the 29th of July. Tickets and info here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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