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Glory Ride

Glory Ride

The Other Palace

GLORY RIDE at the The Other Palace

Glory Ride

“The mix of humour and humanity in the story is a brave choice. The comedy is occasionally misplaced, but the morality never misses a beat”


With Remembrance Sunday still very much on people’s minds, it seems fitting to attend a new musical based on one of the unsung heroes of WWII. Gino Bartali was a renowned Italian cyclist who quietly saved hundreds of lives, working to help Jews who were being persecuted by the Nazis during the time of the Italian Social Republic. His fame gave him exception from curfews and regional lockdowns, which he used to carry documents and messages to the Italian Resistance. He later led Jewish refugees to safety in a secret wagon, telling patrols that pulling the wagon attached to his bicycle was all part of his training. Very few people are aware of his contribution and Bartali died with his secret in 2000. “The good is done” he used to say, “Certain medals hang on the soul, not on the jacket”.

It is a remarkable story that deserves to be told, and until now it has only been revealed in piecemeal, or as a cameo in wider reaching documentaries. A 2007 Hollywood film, ‘Lion Man of Tuscany’, was shelved and is as yet unproduced. The question is, though, is it a story that needs to be told in music? With “Cabaret” and “From Here to Eternity” down the road and an imminent West End transfer of “Operation mincemeat” there is the danger of a resistance (dreadful pun intended) to another musical tackling similar themes. The writers Victoria and Todd Buchholz weaken our scepticism, however, with a succinct, clear narrative reinforced by a score that showcases the message without sacrificing the emotional integrity of the characters and the libretto. Although weakened, the question still remains.

“Glory Ride” is a work in progress, billed as a staged concert. In the main house of The Other Palace, it has the feel of a select rehearsed reading, albeit one with a generous guest list. Read and sung on the book, one has to approach it with a different frame of mind, and consequently it is inappropriate to tag any review with a star rating at this stage. With scripts and iPads in hand, the performers are kind of let off the hook, except to say that there is a very fine ensemble of voices on offer.

James Darch as Bartali has the most gear changes as he journeys from wide eyed, adolescent optimist to reluctant hero. Bartali emerges with integrity intact unlike childhood friend turned Italian Fascist soldier (Neil McDermott) Mario Carita. At the peak of his success Bartali withdraws from professional cycling when his younger brother is killed in a riding accident. He could never quite find the anonymity he craved. So, with the rise of fascism, he used his fame to his advantage: for a long time, the Fascist police and the German troops risked causing public discontent if they arrested him. While Major Mario Carita was compiling a list of eight hundred Jewish children to be deported (or worse), Gino Bartali joins forces with Cardinal Dalla Costa (an impressive Ricardo Afonso) and Jewish accountant Giorgio Nico (Matt Blaker, in fine form dishing out comic relief) to save them. Bartali is always one step ahead of Carita in this cat and mouse race.

The mix of humour and humanity in the story is a brave choice. The comedy is occasionally misplaced, but the morality never misses a beat. It is a timely retelling of the journey, but like the hero of the piece who scaled the Alps and the Pyrenees, the creators of the musical might be in for a similar uphill ride. The approach is overcrowded. This is a trial run, and the writing duo can afford to give themselves a slap on the back for now. Without getting complacent. Although not instantly memorable, the musical numbers – very much guided by the script – are wonderfully crafted and varied, with plenty of rousing ensemble moments. The protagonists are all given their solo moment in which to shine. Against the backdrop of a thrilling story, they should be on a winning streak. But to convince that this needs to be a musical is a hurdle that is becoming increasingly difficult to cross. The reception received from the crowd at The Other Palace should at least steer them in the right direction.



Reviewed on 14th November 2022

by Jonathan Evans


Previously reviewed at this venue:

Millennials | ★★★ | July 2022



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Fanatical – The Musical – 3 Stars

Fanatical - The Musical

Fanatical – The Musical

The Playground Theatre

Reviewed – 14th November 2018


“It all makes for a lively atmosphere, with a cast who seem to be having the time of their lives”


For the uninitiated, it’s worth swotting up before a visit to Fanatical. It deals tenderly with the worlds of cosplay, fandom and sci-fi; come prepared with your Lord of the Rings and Star Wars references brushed up. Be in no doubt: what you sign up for here is a heartfelt love letter to sci-fi and fandoms everywhere.

Fanatical is a musical set amidst the high pressure, high excitement atmosphere of a convention of sci-fi enthusiasts – in this case, ardent supporters of the (fictional, but incredibly fully-realised) world of space comic Angel 8. We too are immersed, brought along as newly adopted fans; gorgeously detailed comic art and digital projections of a really remarkable quality sweep us into the narrative.

A comic convention may seem an odd setting for a musical, but this high-energy cast make it all make sense. So high energy in fact that at times, in the relatively small confines of Latimer Road’s Playground Theatre, the volume and sheer vigour of the music felt somewhat overpowering. Audiences should be prepared for the double earnestness of musical theatre and cosplay (a fan-driven world where enthusiasts craft their own costumes) – indeed, kudos goes to those audience members in their own space-themed outfits.

It all makes for a lively atmosphere, with a cast who seem to be having the time of their lives. Especial note must go to Suanne Braun as Trix, who acts as a linchpin in both character and performance. Her laugh-out-loud rendition of ‘Any Moment Now’ was without question the highlight of the night, as Trix attempts seduction with Miranda-esque levels of awkwardness.

Writers Matt Board and Reina Hardy say in the programme that this show has been a long time in the making. It’s clear, with the attention to detail (our comic characters have animated avatars, theme music, life stories), that Fanatical is the result of a labour of love. Perhaps that love may have added to the occasional loss of discernment. The musical could be shorter and some songs, inevitably, are weaker. Overall there is certainly more filler than killer. Coming Up Next and Self-Aware are some of the toe-tappers, with the latter seeing Tim Rogers as Craig going in for some snarling judgement of the geeks. Similarly the lyrics to the excellent Nobody’s Watching, spat out with relish by Stephen Frost as frustrated writer Scott Furnish, are great fun. As ever, the bad guys get the best songs.

With less accomplished performers, this show might just tip into being an evening of self-indulgent geekery. Strong vocal and acting performances avoid this, and the cast’s abundant enthusiasm carries its audience irresistibly along.


Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Scott Rylander


Fanatical – The Musical

The Playground Theatre until 8th December




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