It was easy to have preconceptions about this musical. Even those who aren’t fans of the TV show know the familiar format. Several bakers of varying ages, ethnicity and background enter a marquee in the English countryside and after baking several dishes over several weeks, one is crowned the Bake Off Champion. There are smiles, tears and forever friends made, what’s not to love? But a musical? Musicals have been made based on bestselling novels and Oscar winning movies, but a light entertainment TV show? The proof is in the pudding.
Writers Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary have created a show which happens to be a true homage to the beloved TV programme. This latest West End musical is light, funny and has every bake-off cliché imaginable lovingly worked into the script. The contestants, in this case 8, unsurprisingly all have a backstory teased out during the show. There are plenty of puns, plenty of laughs and some hearty showstoppers (in this case songs, not bakes).
It helps that the cast are compiled of musical theatre royalty, John Owen-Jones and Haydn Gwynne play Phil Hollinghurst and Pam Lee respectively, yeah yeah, not quite Paul and Prue, but pretty damn close, I am sure that Paul and Prue would be thrilled with the representation. Owen-Jones more used to commanding the stage as the Phantom or Valjean, lets loose his twinkly humorous side playing the judge with the piercing blue eyes and the elusive handshake. Haydn Gwynne once again shows she is as comfortable in musical theatre as any other genre, as Pam Lee, she wears vibrant colours, a warm smile and has a penchant for a tipple – watch out for the beginning of the second act, it is quite something!
Scott Paige and Zoe Birkett play presenters Jim and Kim, they bounce between contestants and take part in excruciating skits that introduce each episode (again, just like the TV show), the first five minutes of the show is almost painful to watch until the quintessential lines ‘Welcome; to the Great British Bake-Off’ are said and the audience breathes a palpable sigh of relief.
The contestants are the heart of the show, each entering the tent with their own agenda. Each have their own story to tell. At first it seems a bit overwhelming having so many characters to learn about but you soon become invested in each of them. There are no surprises to the outcome of each story but they make entertaining viewing. Most of the characters have their own solo and they are belters. There are so many great tunes all executed brilliantly, it is hard to pick between them. Personally I loved the two main comedy numbers in the second act, ‘I’d never be me without you’ sung by the judges (imagine a modern ‘you’re the top’) and Bab’s Lament sung by the amazing Claire Moore.
The Great British Bake Off Musical has a limited season on the West End, playing for only twelve weeks. If you have any fondness at all of the TV show, there will be plenty of things that you will love about his production. I would advise you get your skates on and grab a ticket, this cast is sublime and not to be missed. Yes, The Great British Bake Off Musical is twee, yes it is totally predictable but sometimes, it is nice not having to think too hard, but enjoy and be entertained.
Reviewer: Sammi O’Neill
Photo: © Manuel Harlan
The Judges: John Owen-Jones & Haydn Gwynne
The Presenters: Scott Paige and Zoe Birkett
The Contestants: Michael Cahill, Damian Humbley, Claire Moore, Grace Mouat, Aharon Rayner, Jay Saighal, Cat Sandison, Charlotte Wakefield