Review: The Great British Bake-Off Musical

There’s a new musical in town with cake tins, technical challenges, a thinly-disguised pair of celebrity judges (Pam Lee (Haydn Gwynne) and Phil Hollinghurst (John Owen Jones)), and affectionate ribbing of a reality classic.

Yes, you read it right. The Great British Bake-Off has received the song and dance treatment under Rachel Kavanaugh’s direction, but will it be a rising success or a soggy bottom?

I’m not a fan of the TV series, having seen exactly 0 episodes, but I know the drill, with a group of contestants striving to become the week’s star baker and the recipient of a coveted handshake from Mr Blue Eyes.

Production photo from The Great British Bake-Off Musical

The eight candidates are typical of any show of the type: the overachiever; the gay; the single dad; the middle-aged mum; the immigrant; the student; the new age hipster; the backup.

Most get their own solo songs to give a bit of character back-story, but mostly, Bake-Off plays for the laughs rather than any deep plot points. The presenters (Scott Paige and Zoe Birkett) are sweet and saucy.

There’s a love story, of course, handled well with a pinch of sugar by Charlotte Wakefield and Damien Humbley) and a bit of a flirt from Babs (Claire Moore), but nothing too heavy.

Production photo from The Great British Bake-Off Musical

Written by the team of Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary (also behind the Adrian Mole musical), the songs often comment on what we know about Bake-Off as a concept. The handshake, the dough-making, the gin-guzzling, the camaraderie.

In a set that mainly replicates the baking tent but also allows for a bit of off-camera pizazz, a two-hour confection of entertainment quickly buzzes along. Basically, we are here for fun, and the quirky lyrics reflect that.

Covering a whole series of bakes and drama (yes, freezergate rears its head) isn’t easy, but everyone gets their moment as the ovens sizzle and the aprons bristle.

Production photo from The Great British Bake-Off Musical

Jones and Gwynne ably mimic and rib their real-life counterparts, while Moore and Cat Sandison (as wishful would-be mother Francesca) have some solos that leave us wanting more.

The ensemble move, shake, and stir like their lives depend on it (Grace Mouat’s pouty Izzy and Michael Cahill’s cheeky Russell stand out), and I found myself musing on whether my reality shows of choice could sustain similar musicalisation.

Dragon’s Den: The Musical, anyone?

The Great British Bake-Off is playing at the Noel Coward Theatre until 13 May: tickets here or look for offers at other retailers.


Image credit: Manuel Harlan