GLORY RIDE | London, Charing Cross Theatre

This new musical about Italian cycling legend Gino Bartali (Josh St. Clair) offers a rip-roaring ride through Mussolini’s Italy, showing how Bartali worked secretly with the resistance to save eight hundred Italian Jews during the Holocaust – something that was only revealed after Bartali’s death in 2000. A tiny number, considering the thousands that died, but an amazing story nonetheless: should Bartali receive “glory” for his sporting success, or for the way he risked his life for others?

It’s an extremely impressive debut from American father-and-daughter writing team, Todd and Victoria Buchholz, who have no prior experience for writing for the professional stage. What they do have a good eye for is money: Todd Buchholz was a senior economic adviser for the White House, and an original co-producer of mega-hit Jersey Boys (2004). Given that the entire production appears to be self-funded, it makes sense they would want to turn Bartali’s story into a sort of Les Misérables-esque ‘Valjean et Javert’ face-off against friend-turned-fascist Mario (Fed Zanni), and an outrageously villainous commander (Ryan Bennett).

What the score lacks in hummability is made up for with thrilling orchestrations (Jen Green), whip-speed conducting (Dave Rose) and an absolutely extraordinary cast of West End stars, all packed into this 265-seater fringe theatre: it’s enough to knock your socks off.

The musical takes some weird artistic licence that some may find offensive. The role of real-life Jewish resistance leader Giorgio “Nico” Nissim (Daniel Robinson) is reduced to just being Bartali’s scaredy-cat accountant, while Bartali himself is presented as so unimpeachably golden that it borders on propaganda.

Playing at the Charing Cross Theatre 22 April – 29 July 2023.

The Prickle - About transp