Glory Ride ★★★ The Other Palace | November 14 - 16, 2022

Gino Bartali was a Tour de France winning cyclist and a national hero in Italy. This is the chronicle of his heroic, but little known, participation in a scheme to rescue threatened Jewish children during the Fascist regime. It is inspiring stuff and could be the basis of a terrific musical. Glory Ride certainly has some good material to work with but it remains a work in progress. The arc of the story doesn't really work. Bartali goes from amateur rider without a bicycle to retired star in the first twenty minutes of the show. The focus of the story is also unclear. The main narrative turns out to be the struggle between Bartali's individualistic vision which allows him to act according to his conscience as opposed to the philosophy of his mentor and friend, Mario, whose commitment to being a team player leads him to support a fascist political agenda. It reminded us of the Jean Valjean and Javert conflict that forms the basis of Les Miserables, in that case a forgiving humanism versus a perfectionist idealism. Unfortunately here, the contrast is not always clear and the two men's relationship and contrasting approaches to athletics and politics is somewhat lost in other issues. Bartali's decision to abandon his team during a bicycle race becomes an important event displaying his character, but it was somewhat obscured by other plotlines, such as a love story that was left unresolved. Some of the dialogue and lyrics are rather clunky, for example "Damascus" doesn't really rhyme with "Against Us." However, the songs "Unborn" and "Glory" stand out and the performances are impressive. James Darch as Bartali and Neil McDermott as Mario are both strong. Matt Blaker does the most he can with the rather stock humorous character of Nico. There is much that is both captivating and uplifting about this almost forgotten story, but in its present version, Glory Ride doesn't capture the full power of Bartali's heroic life journey.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Piers Foley.

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