Blimey, there is some talent in the British Musical Theatre scene. New musical Ride has finally opened after battling the pandemic and undergoing further development. Its stabilisers have been cast aside and the result is frankly marvellous. Watch out London, there is a new kid on the block and she has wheels! 

Ride is a musical that shares the story of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to cycle around the world and her exploits along the way. The countries, the people and the odd problematic pothole are traversed in the production, all with Annie’s confidence and cavalier relationship with the facts.  For Annie, the truth is of less importance when compared to the story you either want to tell or know the audience want to hear and this makes the tales she spins all the more invigorating. 

Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams are the creative minds behind Ride and they have comfortably hit their stride with their latest production. The seamlessness of the book, music and lyrics is a masterclass in musical development. The piece is cohesive and thoroughly entertaining as much as it is educating of Annie's life. The songs are efficient with plot and character development whilst generating wondrous and catchy melodies that are brimming with heart. They have captured Annie's spirit beautifully - complete with her self-assured exterior and more sensitive interior. 

The casting team have uncovered a star in Liv Andrusier as Annie. Not only is her voice sensational when navigating the challenging score - the highs and lows equally delightful, but she also handles the complexities of the character with ease. The brash, confident Annie from the opening steadily crumbles away imperceptibly, though often fighting to reemerge, until we are left with a humbled, more vulnerable Annie who is more aware of the challenges she has faced and the ones yet to come. Andrusier is one to watch.  

Opposite her is Yuki Sutton as Martha and you guessed it the casting team equally nailed it here too. Martha is somewhat willingly dragged in to help pitch Annie's story to newspapers and therefore is tasked with portraying many of the eclectic characters she crosses paths with on her travels. Sutton shines in her ability to bring such a wide range of characters to life, each one unique, funny and charming. Her voice is superb and works wonderfully in tandem with Andrusier  - a greater duo you could not ask for. Both of these performers have thrilling careers ahead of them and I for one am excited to see where they go. 

The excellent creative choices did not stop with the casting. Amy Jane Cook's design was breathtaking and convincingly demonstrates that you do not need expensive automation or revolves to create breathtaking moments in set design. There were audible gasps during the bicycle reveal and the transition into the train scene was intelligent. With the help of a striking lighting design from Jamie Platt, it crafted an image worthy of a painting as the light cascaded into the carriage. Budding designers go and see what Cook has created and learn from her methods. The direction from Sarah Meadows is the string that binds all the creative elements together and enables them to work in unison. She refuses to allow the pace to falter for the 90-minute runtime and ensures that the actors have space to play and create in order to tell this incredible story.  

Producers, programmers and theatres listen up. This show demands a life beyond Charing Cross because audiences deserve to witness the deluge of talent on display. This musical ticks all the boxes from the music, the design, the script, the premise, the performances - the list is endless.  The team have found a wonderful and worthwhile story to tell in Annie Londonderry and they have got all the complex decisions right in delivering that story to an audience. Do not let this show fly under your radar - it is a must see and I am already booking tickets to go see this extraordinary production once again.


It runs until 17 September.


Review: Henry Longstaff             Photo: Danny Kaan