The audience is hungry for new, original musicals and Victoria Buchholz and Todd Buchholz, a daughter-father writing team delivered us the fresh, moving story of Gino Bartali, the Italian Tour de France winner cyclist who saved at least 800 children during World War II. from Mussolini’s fascist as a member of the Tuscan Resistance. He never talked about his heroic act in his life and tried to carry this secret to his grave but after his death in 2000, his grandchildren found his diary, and that’s the reason why we could celebrate his story via this new writing.
The book is really nice, the score is enjoyable and building up the right atmosphere. It’s not the kind of musical where the characters burst into long emotional ballads often, may I say there is even space for more solos in Act I. Most of the characters are loveable with relatable intentions and you just want to get to know more about them.
The world premiere at The Other Palace is a staged concert version, with script in hand and –unfortunately- it doesn’t do justice to this very promising story. Obviously, one tries not to be that focused on the staging in a case like this, but there were a few distracting details that affected the experience – mostly in terms of lighting. The lights weren’t really adjusted to the light of the huge screen in the back, sometimes it was a struggle to see what was happening on it. Since in this case, the video design isn’t only there to illustrate but sometimes it shows information, maps, etc, and is part of the narrative, it needs to be seen.
Also, it wasn’t really clear why only 4-5 performers were using Italian accents out of 15 people on stage – maybe there was a concept behind this idea, but as an audience member it was rather random and unclear.
The chemistry works well amongst the cast and the ensemble work is creative and smooth. Two characters need to be highlighted: Giorgio Nico (Matt Blaker) and Cardinale Dalla Costa (Ricardo Afonso). These two would even deserve their spin-offs, very well-written characters with great songs.
Matt Blaker’s stage presence was fresh and entertaining, his comedic timing is great and his character arc was remarkable and very well played.
Ricardo Afonso’s big song ’800 souls’ is easily the most powerful number of the entire show. Delivered by Afonso, whose vocal is legendary, this song becomes the musical highlight of the evening.
This uplifting and poignant story needs to be properly staged so it could thrive as it deserves.
Review: Rebeka M Artwork: Rebecca Pitt