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

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Book and Lyrics: Jake Brunger

Music and Lyrics: Pippa Cleary

Director: Rachel Kavanaugh

Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary have certainly collected all the right ingredients for their musical based on the British hit show. Sure, they’ve added too much sugar and, with a slow second half, they’ve not quite escaped the cardinal sin of the tent: a soggy bottom. But otherwise the songs are crisp and memorable, and the good-natured digs at Bake Off’s predictable formula are very tasty.

Encompassing a whole season of the show, we are first introduced to the upbeat presenters Kim and Jim before we meet the eight contestants. They have names but we see these characters each year on the show itself. For instance, there’s Izzy, a privileged posh girl who will pull out all the stops to win with her ‘shabby chic’ cakes; Ben, a young widower with a young daughter to look after; Dezza, the Shoredtich hipster who only bakes with organic, free-range ingredients; and Babs, the older woman who talks back to the judges.

However, the story revolves around the most clichéd of these stereotypes; the underdog. As the back-up baker, Gemma (Charlotte Wakefield) comes late to the show, and is full of nerves and lacks self-confidence. She, like all the others, has her own-sob story; her mother has died and as Gemma was her mother’s carer, she’s also out of job. Can she progress any further than the first round? You bet she can.

The actors have great fun playing these characters, especially Grace Mouat who plays Issy like a pantomime villain –she even gets mid-show boos from the audience. Jay Jaighal is hilarious as the misunderstood hipster Dezza who won’t take no for an answer and Aharon Rayner brings an endearing pathos to his Hassan, the teenage refugee from Syria.

Most of the contestants get their own song, which act like their VTs, giving some background to their lives, with Grow by Cat Sandison’s Francesca being the most effective. But these solo songs never move on the story, and their inclusion, along with some duets, considerably slow down the second half. Better are the group numbers such as salsa-inspired Slap It Like That and the very funny and evocative Don’t Send Me Home that has the witty refrain of ‘big hugs’ referring to those embraces between the contestants when anyone leaves the tent.

Of course, Bake Off would be nothing without its judges and here Paul Hollywood and Pru Leith are reimagined as Phil Hollinghurst and Pam Lee. Despite the name changes, John Owen-Jones and Haydn Gwynne are uncannily similar to the real judges, with Owen-Jones, getting Hollywood’s stance and swagger down to a tee. Gwynne manages to send up Leith’s rumoured love of a daytime tipple in such a innocent way that it would be impossible for the National Treasure to be offended.

Alice Power’s set is very old-fashioned, and yet her colour schemes of pastel shades seem as homely as the show itself. Each aspect of Bake Off is nicely captured from the toppling tiers to the Star Baker’s phone call home. Brunger and Cleary even manage to refer to ice-cream-gate that gripped the nation in 2014.

As warm-hearted and as predictable as the show itself, The Great British Bake Off Musical is a glorious rush of sugar although its gently mocking tone goes some way to make sure that this sugar is not too sweet.

Runs until 13 May 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Sugar Rush

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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