Writers: The Baking Committee
Director: Julian Woolford
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
Union Jacks draped across trestle tables, a notice board plastered with parish council news, Women’s Institute announcements and a photo of a lost guinea pig. We are unmistakably in a community hall in rural England. In the Derbyshire town of Bakewell to be precise, where the annual baking contest is taking place. The seven ﬁnalists proudly parade their cakes and compete for the chance to create the deﬁnitive Bakewell tart (or is it a pudding? or maybe a cake?).
This musical is the work of The Baking Committee, a group consisting of the 11 performers in the show plus three others who all came together at Guildford School of Acting, sharing a common love for musical theatre and for cake. It is not high art but it is relentless fun, leaving no pun unturned and discarding no double entendre for being too awful.
Alexandra Spalding is a jolly presence throughout as Victoria Sponge, the MC. The contestants include: a saucy Lucy Emmott as “the original Bakewell tart”; Tom Beynon as Henrietta Apfelstrudel, a German transvestite who champions her Black Forest gateau and complains that “you always bake alone when you sound like a baritone”; Victoria Humphreys as a singing nun who glows over her angel cake; and Tim Stuart as a shy postman who strikes up a romantic chord with one of the judges and, clutching his mixing bowl to his chest, sings to her “you make me rise”.
Individually, the singing is passable, but the team seems to have decided that they sound better as a chorus and they deliver several well-harmonised numbers, culminating in the excellent How Do I Feel? The lyrics are of variable quality, occasionally bland but often quite witty, with some sparkling rhymes. They combine well with the tunes which, if not too memorable, are always easy on the ear. Musical director Kevin Michael Cripps ensures that all the numbers are performed with aplomb. Choreography by Nicole Tiffany Rushing and Kayleigh Thadani also adds to the merriment.
Undoubtedly this show is a little rough around the edges, but what it lacks in polish and sophistication is more than made up for by the energy, good humour and enthusiasm of the performers. As a ﬁrst stab at a musical it is not bad at all and shows considerable promise in all departments. If the Baking Committee turns out to include a budding Sondheim, that will really be the icing on the cake.