Noel Coward Theatre, London – until 13 May 2023
A British institution, Bake Off is may not seem like the most likely source for a musical but thankfully, its musical adaptation works incredibly well and is an easily digestible, heart-warming show and a love letter to the series so many love.
Surprisingly sincere, the musical with book and lyrics by Jake Brunger and music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary is legitimately earnest in its portrayal of the characters and their stories but also includes excellent humour and always manages to stay on the right side of being a parody or caricature of itself. Moments that could be overplayed are often reigned in and you’re always laughing with the show rather than at it. That’s not to say there aren’t some cringe moments and the odd line that doesn’t quite hit correctly but none of them take away from the pure joy and sweetness of this musical and it really is a delight of a show.
Pacing wise, it’s pretty perfect. It never feels like it drags and really you could do with a second helping of the brilliance on stage because it’s just so lovely. It’s quite surprising just how well everything works. From colour coded bowl choreography (Georgina Lamb) to the incredibly effective set by Alice Power there’s not much to fault. Of course you could nitpick, but for the sheer sentimentality and wholesomeness, this musical is a showstopper.
The cast are incredibly strong and there’s so much connection between them that shines on stage. As the presenters Zoe Birkett (Kim) and Scott Paige (Jim) are wondrously witty and have excellent chemistry, as if they’ve been genuine presenters for years. Taking on the job of the judges, Haydn Gwynne and John Owen-Jones are dynamic and somehow retain their individuality whilst bringing the iconic double act to life (in the show Prue Leith becomes Pam Lee and Phil Hollywood becomes Phil Hollinghurst). All of the contestants have stand out moments and are so solid in their portrayals. Charlotte Wakefield especially has some touching scenes and provides some of the top vocals of the show. Grace Mouat’s character is also incredibly engaging and is a great contrast to the rest of the bakers. Michael Cahill, Claire Moore, Damian Humbley, Aharon Rayner, Jay Saighal, Aanya Shah and Cat Sandison all bring such humanity to their roles and are so wonderful to watch.
Every aspect of Bake Off makes the cut to the musical, from the challenges to the general structure and joke format. Like the TV show, there are innuendos galore and more baking puns than you could fit in the oven, but above that, it really encapsulates the warmth and community feeling that The Great British Bake Off provides. The contestants each get a bit of development and there’s even a romance and some social commentary; all elements feel well thought out and it’s really just a well structured, well oiled (greased?) musical. You couldn’t really ask for a more genuinely touching show. It truly has all the ingredients to be a hit and is so worth seeing!
Reviewed on Friday 3rd March 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
photo credit: Manuel Harlan