I was surprised when I heard that a musical about Gino Bartali was being workshopped. I know, there are currently running musicals about Silvio Berlusconi or Tony Blair, so I should not really be surprised. Besides, my father was a big fan of the man, and with him, millions of Italians.
Gino Bartali, in fact, was not just the most renowned Italian cyclist, having won twice the Tour de France and three times the Giro d'Italia, but also a hero. While Mussolini passed anti-Jewish racial laws that, following the Nazi occupation of Rome, Naples and northern Italy in 1943, led to Jews being sent to the death camps, Bartali cycled thousands of miles between cities across Italy transporting counterfeit identity papers to Jews who were at risk of being deported to concentration camps. The papers were hidden in the frame of his bike. And Glory Ride tells exactly this story.
The musical, directed by Kelly Devine, has book, music and lyrics by Victoria Buchholz. She encountered the story of Gino Bartali while travelling in Tuscany and decided to create this musical, with her father.
The story is nothing but exceptional, the set charming (who doesn't love Tuscany?), and the cast deliver many fabulous performances.
Josh St. Clair gives an energetic and charming performance as Gino, and Daniel Robinson is a hilarious Giorgio Nico, the accountant from Pisa who helped formulate the plan, with Gino and Cardinal Elia dalla Costa (Niall Sheehy). His big song '800 souls' is easily the most powerful number of the entire show. Adriana, Gino's friend, is Amy di Bartolomeo, and her vocals shine as always. All the main characters are given their solo moment in which to shine.
The musical has a dramatic and fascinating story told with a mix of humour and humanity but it is difficult to empathise with any of the characters. Also, there are a few catchy songs but the music fails to stand out.
Gino Bartali 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 and should celebrate his story via this new writing today.
It runs until 29 July.
Photos: Marc Brenner