The Great British Bake Off – The Musical proves a thoroughly charming night out in the West End at the Noël Coward Theatre
“Don’t let the gingham fool you
It’s a battle on a plate”
You might not immediately think that a winning musical could be fashioned out of the televisual stalwart that is The Great British Bake Off but the talented writing team of Jake Brunger & Pippa Cleary (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾) clearly knew better. First seen in Cheltenham last summer, The Great British Bake Off – The Musical arrives in the West End somewhat recast but in undoubtedly great form, a sweet treat for all to enjoy.
Brunger’s book borrows heavily from the ethos of the show to conjure up an inclusive warmth that is just irresistible, even to those who might have previously resisted the gingham altar. There’s witty nods to iconic crises such as ice cream-gate and bin-gate, unforgivable digs at Mel and Sue and a recognition of how ridiculous the technical challenges have gotten. But there’s also acknowledgement of the succour that baking can bring to troubled souls and the joy, too, that magic ingredient that has made the TV show the enduring success it is (seriously, Nadiya and Mary at the final is just perfection).
So we follow a group of contestants as they work their way through the competition, Cleary’s score using the format to draw from a wide range of musical influences with skill. Throw in two attention-seeking hosts and then two scene-stealing judges and there’s a heavenly concoction of revue-like variety which is often funny, sometimes filthy and always tuneful. Georgina Lamb’s choreography is sprinkled lightly across some numbers to add a little pizazz where necessary.
But the truth is Rachel Kavanaugh’s production rarely needs it. Alice Power’s design perfectly evokes the famous tent whilst also offering some excellent cakes and a quick trip to Blackpool Tower. Mark Collins’ musical supervision keeps things sounding super-bright. And the company appear to be having a ball. Haydn Gwynne is perfection as Prue, sorry, I mean Pam, and it is marvellous to see John Owen-Jones having such fun as the leathers-clad Phil.
Scott Paige and Zoe Birkett are a riot as the judges with their endless skits. Claire Moore and Michael Cahill perfectly encapsulate the particular vein of older contestant the show often attracts. Cat Sandison and Aharon Rayner bring well-pitched back-storied depth as well as entertainment. Grace Mouat nails show-stopping vocals, Jay Saighal the recurring laughs, and Damian Humbley and the stunningly voiced Charlotte Wakefield offer a light hint of romance to add a scarcely needed bit of narrative thrust. But even to the end, the show has its cake and eats it, leaving us wanting more. Delicious!