Review by Raphael Kohn
After a run in London at the Charing Cross theatre, new musical Ride is kicking things off in Curve Leicester’s studio before a month-long run at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant. Telling the story of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe on a bicycle, Ride has been a smash hit in its previous productions, and to celebrate its return, the team behind it have produced a cast album, destined to get its fans pumped.
Originating as a show at the VAULT festival before transferring into the Charing Cross Theatre, Ride follows our hero Annie as she tells her story to a newspaper editor in New York. Trying to get a job, she recounts her experiences as she took to a bicycle to cross the entire globe with advertisements pasted across her body to fund the trip. On first glance it seems preposterous - yet it is indeed a true story, and a remarkable one at that. But to be a truly successful cast album, it needs to have the power to tell this story purely through the music, and to do that, it needs some pretty incredible vocalists.
It’s lucky, then, that Ride has incredible vocalists in spades. Led by Liv Andrusier as Annie and with Yuki Sutton playing all the other roles, Ride is a fine example indeed of acting through song, with both performers’ voices soaring to great heights as they belt out Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams’ tunes. Andrusier is an instantly likeable Annie - captivating from her first moments in ‘The World’s Greatest Story’ to snappily get and hold your attention to her stunning emotional powerhouse moment in ‘Stranger’ later in the album. She is a truly marvellous vocalist, giving vocals so enchanting that I was checking ticket availability even before the first song had finished.
Andrusier is joined by Yuki Sutton, who begins by playing Martha, a secretary, before embodying various people that Annie comes into contact with in her travels. Displaying great vocal versatility, Sutton is the perfect performer for the role, with a fabulous vocal tone and delivers an excellently characterful rendition.
Yet a cast album is only as good as its writing, and much of Ride is very enjoyable. Rooted in folk-pop music, glimmers of Waitress shine through in the titular track and throughout the album, and indeed fans of that show will undoubtedly become obsessed with Ride. There is even a sparkle of Come From Away in Ride’s showstopping banger ‘Stranger’ which, through its power rhythms and emotional writing, echoes ‘Me And The Sky’. However, although each song is individually fun, great listening, all the songs in the album begin to blur together and sound very similar. They’re energetic and exciting - and undoubtedly will make for a spectacular experience live - but often feel repetitive, and slightly unmemorable and lacking in substance.
They are, however, tremendously orchestrated by Macy Schmidt with additional arrangements from Sam Young for a sparkling band who play with a fizzling energy. Often prominently featuring the guitar (with Alex Crawford’s lovely playing) and a motor-esque percussion part from Elena Bonomo that keeps us reminded that our protagonist is on a bike, these orchestrations are delightfully folky and are a joy to listen to.
It’s a funny thing, to review a cast album before seeing a show, but Ride is an album that convinces the listener to open up their browser and book their tickets. It’s not perfect, and the music does lack variation at times, but as a taste of what I can enjoy from the show live, its stellar performances and jaunty songs more than entice me to get my debit card out on the Southwark Playhouse’s website. I imagine you’ll feel the same after listening to it.
To purchase or stream Ride: A New Musical - Original London Cast Recording visit http://lnk.to/ridelondon
Ride plays at Curve Leicester from 7-15th July and Southwark Playhouse Elephant from 19th July-12 August. Tickets are available from https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/ride/ and https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/productions/ride/