Short and very, very sweet (ahem), this year’s West End Bake Off saw 42nd Street crowned champions by guest judges, choreographer Arlene Phillips CBE and actress and singer Janie Dee. Their stall sold out before I had even gotten around to sampling their creations, and with no more possible trade to be done, all they could do was start packing up with over half an hour before closing time. Still, being called ‘sir’ and a ‘gentleman’ while getting served a scone and a ‘rock cake’ by the ever-bubbly Debbie Chazen of The Girls (clothes on, I hasten to add) isn’t something that happens every day. At least not to me.
The power of social media seemed evident, talking to various people at the event, who were far more knowledgeable than I was about who had baked what even before reaching the stands – I deliberately went in ‘blind’, opting to see what I saw when I got there. In the end, this was like popping into Sainsbury’s on the way home for some whipped cream and ending up buying far more than that. I was tempted by a ‘six cakes for £5’ offer that Thriller Live had going, and that was after I had already scoffed a scone (for some reason I went for scones, perhaps because it was still relatively early in the day) and a ‘Rosalie Muffin’ (there may or may not be a double entendre) from School of Rock the Musical. Later, when one of the many child actors from that show tried to sell me a delicacy ‘made by Andrew Lloyd Webber himself’, I was – fortunately or unfortunately – too stuffed to accept his kind offer. Such is life.
I was impressed with Iris Theatre’s gingerbread house, put together to mark their forthcoming production of Hansel and Gretel. Overall, the more popular stands were the ones that were more enthusiastic in getting the punters in – by the time I left, those who hadn’t quite sold out were, noticeably, the quieter and more reticent ones that seemed to wait for people to come to them. Kinky Boots The Musical did best of all, I think, using the central walkway between the two sections of selling points as the Milan catwalk in which that show’s final scenes take place. Quite a few of their cakes on sale were in the shape of a ‘Price & Son’ kinky boot – shoe cakes, if you will.
The creativity involved was quite phenomenal. The Mousetrap had little white mice on cheese. The Les Misérables stand was themed around Thénardier’s inn, and included a large stool-shaped chocolate cake called ‘Masturd of the House’. Another of their contributions was in the shape of a pig’s head, and there were more veggie-friendly options. In fact, there were options even for people who didn’t care much for cake. Sausage rolls were available from The Comedy About A Bank Robbery and refreshments from The Theatre Café. The tombola did very well, too, even if I say so myself, coming away with a large cup with lid and straw and a copy of the soundtrack of the motion picture version of Les Misérables (I already have a copy, but hey ho).
The mask used by Ben Forster, who plays the title role in The Phantom of the Opera, was available for visitors to put on, and if that wasn’t enough, Forster himself was busy talking to fans and supporters throughout the event. The Girls had Victoria Sponge from Marks & Spencer available (in that show, a character ‘cheats’ by entering a store-bought Victoria Sponge in a cake competition). In all the fun and conversation, it was easy to forget this was all in aid of Acting for Others, an umbrella organisation for 15 different charities supporting members of the entertainment industry. But the level of pleasure and energy this year’s Bake Off had is sure to give its organisers more than enough impetus to build on this successful event in future years. A merry and memorable morning.
By Chris Omaweng
Acting for Others is a fundraising organization for 15 UK theatrical charities. These charities are Actors’ Children’s Trust, Dancers’ Career Development, The Dance Professionals Fund, Denville Hall, Drury Lane Theatrical Fund, Equity Charitable Trust, Evelyn Norris Trust, Grand Order of Water Rats Charities Fund, International Performers’ Aid Trust, King George V Fund for Actors and Actresses, Ralph and Meriel Richardson Foundation, The Royal Opera House Benevolent Fund, The Royal Theatrical Fund, Theatre Chaplaincy UK and The Theatrical Guild.
On Saturday 20th May 2017
From 10.30am – 1pm
At St Paul’s Church, Bedford Street, London, WC2E 9ED