Tag Archives: Kelly Devine

“Glory Ride” at Charing Cross Theatre

An inspirational theme and important story do not automatically make a great musical. Yes, the real-life tale of champion cyclist Gino Bartali, who helped smuggle children out of Italy during World War II, is great. But it is handled so bluntly by father and daughter team Todd and Victoria Buchholz that this show does not impress.

The book manages to be at once too speedy and plodding. Our hero Bartali loses his brother in an accident and wins the Tour de France without breaking a sweat. The show is overwhelmingly, oppressively, earnest – and declamatory (its single attempt at humour is dire). And some of the acting matches… there’s a lot of pointing.

Victoria Buchholz has written a score that isn’t memorable enough and suffers from too many militaristic themes. The lyrics are better, but the idea of adding the odd Italian word is overused.

The production, understandably, struggles. Director Kelly Devine could be more imaginative with the staging. Some of the voices could be stronger. And too many of the accents need pinning down (there are touches of Rada and Russia with these Italians). That the cast is committed and gives the show a good go is faint praise, but sadly the best that can be mustered.

Josh St.Clair and Amy Di Bartolomeo

Although they don’t manage to save the night, there are strong leads, including Josh St. Clair, who gives a passionate performance as Bartali and has a strong voice. But although we spend a lot of time with our hero, the character is flat. The story gives Bartali guilt as a motivation and St. Clair goes with this, but he would clearly be better if he had more to work with. Frustratingly, the fact that Bartoli’s celebrity played a part in his heroics (it gives him relative freedom in lockdown Florence) is mentioned but not used. A musical could be great for exploring this (Andrew Lloyd Webber would love it), but the chance is ignored, and Glory Ride just goes for Bartali’s humility, which ends up making him bland.

As for the love interest, Adriana is a woman defined by the men in her life (naughty). Amy Di Bartolomeo, who takes the role, has the best number and gives the character charisma, but the whole role is another missed opportunity.

Maybe the big problem is a lack of peril? Or the fact that everyone is so sure of their convictions? There’s a lot of talk of souls in the show. The role of Florence’s Cardinal turns into a puzzling mix of both problems – failing to convince that he is under threat while hectoring everyone about what they should do.

Fed Zanni

Gino’s Blackshirt friend Mario (who mentions he is a church orphan far too many times) offers some hope to improve the show. There’s real angst about this “man in the middle” trying to help his friends and do the best for his city, and Fed Zanni is a highlight in the role. It’s a shame Mario is just a sidekick. Determined to make a show about a saint, Glory Ride ends up sinfully uninspiring.

Until 29 July 2023


Photos by Marc Brenner

“Rock of Ages” at the Shaftesbury Theatre

It’s the aim of the critic to provide an objective, knowledgeable appraisal. With Rock of Ages, a new musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre, that ideal is a tough ask when you can’t abide the music involved. Originally produced on Broadway, this tribute show to 80s rock music recycles some of the worst songs I’ve ever heard, ‘boasting’ hits from Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Europe and the like. Its music so terrible that it doesn’t even qualify as a guilty pleasure. If you disagree – then grab yourself a ticket, because this is the night out for you.

What I can do is spot the talent that has gone into making Rock of Ages: precise direction from Kristin Hanggi, outrageously fun costumes from Gregory Gale and a good book from Chris D’Arienzo. The stars are Justin Lee Collins and Shayne Ward, whose fans will no doubt be pleased to see them, but the real focus is Simon Lipkin, whose wonderful performance shows off his musical theatre credentials and puts him centre stage.

The idea behind Rock of Ages is sound enough. D’Arienzo identifies just how camp this genre can be and sees a connection between it and musical theatre. Grafting the songs on to a traditional plot, which includes young lovers and putting on a show, there is a tongue-in-cheek feel that you can’t help but like. And yet it fails to gel. Rock and dance don’t mix, so Kelly Devine’s efforts at choreography look odd. And while rock might be camp, you can’t push the parallel too far – true camp has an edge of seriousness and the parody here deflates it.

Rock of Ages goes to the very heart of what is good and bad about tribute musicals. It’s light hearted, high spirited and fun… but if the songs aren’t your bag, no matter how much some people are enjoying themselves (and a great many really seem to be), you will be left feeling baffled.

Photo by Tristram Kenton

Written 14 November 2011 for The London Magazine