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The Great British Bake Off Musical – Noël Coward Theatre, London

Take one incredibly popular television programme, add fifteen or so brand-new songs, a witty and bright book, stir in sixteen or so very talented performers, sprinkle in six excellent musicians, and put it all in a big bowl (well a stage set), and whisk briskly. Then place in the oven (well the Noël Coward Theatre) cook for two hours or so on a high heat and what have you got? The Great British Bake Off Musical.

John Owen-Jones and contestants in The Great British Bake Off Musical. Dee McCourt (Borkowski Arts).
John Owen-Jones and contestants in The Great British Bake Off Musical. Dee McCourt (Borkowski Arts).

Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary who wrote the delightful and imaginative The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Age 13¾ have turned their attention to one of television’s most popular shows of the past decade or so, The Great British Bake Off and in co-operation with that show’s producers, have turned an unlikely subject into a marvellous stage musical.

The show starts surprisingly as a group of angels sing the prologue whilst a caveman and a cavewoman discover first fire and then baking – an unexpected start but the prehistoric couple soon metamorphose into the TV show’s presenters Kim (Zoe Birkett) and Jim (Scott Paige) and as the curtain rises, we’re in the proverbial Bake Off woods in a stylised version of the iconic tent that houses the show. We next meet the judges, Phil Hollingshurst (John Owen-Jones) who bears more than a passing resemblance to Paul Hollywood and Dame Pam Lee (Haydn Gwynn) who might just be the not so cunningly disguised, Dame Prue Leith.

We then meet the eight bakers. Russell (Michael Cahill), Ben (Damian Humble), Babs (Claire Moore), Izzy (Grace Mouat), Hassan (Aharon Rayner), Dezza (Jay Saighal), Francesca (Cat Sandison) and Gemma (Charlotte Wakefield). Then later on we meet Ben’s eleven-year-old daughter Lily (played by a rotating trio of young girls). During the show, we get everyone’s backstory and each character gets their own moment in the sun as they tell us their story in song.

In fact, The Great British Bake Off Musical is mainly about the songs as the dialogue is kept to a minimum. And excellent songs they are too. They’re clever, and funny and move the narrative (such as it) along with great brio and elan. They’re in various styles with one of the highlights, a delightful duet between the two judges that sums up their relationship to a tee. The characters are an amalgam of real contestants – there’s the mature, divorced woman, the foreign national, the lonely spinster, the camp gay man and the widowed husband – all clichés but all well observed.

After the first act introduces us to everyone, the second act starts with a splendid song and dance solo number by Pam that highlights Haydn Gwynn’s prowess as a singer and dancer. With only one baker eliminated in the first act, things speed up as we lose three more contestants in one song ‘Don’t Send Me Home’ as we move towards the denouement. During the way, there’s a love story, some baking disasters (of course) and even a visit to Blackpool. Like its television namesake, the musical even has its own showstopper when Claire Moore literally stops the show in the eleven o’clock number, ‘Bab’s Lament’.

Like all the best cakes, The Great British Bake Off Musical is light, frothy and tastes delicious. It never takes itself seriously and is full of double (and sometimes) single entendres – at times it’s a bit like a sunny, summer panto – very British and very tongue in cheek. All the performers are superb and they’re ably backed up by an excellent band. Rachel Cavanagh deserves a Paul Hollywood handshake for her superb direction which allows the cast to show off their not-inconsiderable talents perfectly.

Does The Great British Bake Off Musical have a soggy bottom? Not at all although there are one or two soggy moments – giant fighting scones anyone? It might have a little too much sugar for some people but there’s no doubt that the combination of all the show’s ingredients allows The Great British Bake Off Musical to rise and rise.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Created by Mark Goucher Productions in association with Creative Director and Executive Producer Richard McKerrow and the producers of the TV phenomenon, Love Productions, this heart-warming and funny new British musical has perfectly reimagined the nation’s favourite baking show.

Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh [Wind in the Willows, Half a Sixpence], it features an original and witty score, written by multi-award-winning duo Jake Brunger (book and lyrics) and Pippa Cleary (music and lyrics), critically acclaimed as “one of musical theatre’s most dynamic writing partnerships.”

Inspired by the TV show this showstopper musical follows the amateur bakers as they seek to impress the judges and battle their way to be crowned Star Baker. The audience are taken on a rollicking journey of tap along songs and dance as the bakers face trials, tribulations, and baking failures along the way.

The original creative team includes: choreographer Georgina Lamb, set, costume and cake designer Alice Power, lighting designer Ben Cracknell, sound designer Ben Harrison, orchestrator Tom Curran, musical supervisor Mark Collins, and casting director Jim Arnold CDG.

Listings information
The Great British Bake Off Musical
Noël Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4AU
25 February to 13 May 2023

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