THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF MUSICAL at the Noël Coward Theatre
“Showstoppers, foot-tappers and ballads are seasoned with lyrics that, although overall are delightfully clever and witty, should also come with allergy warnings”
The Great British Bake Off has risen to heights of success from its humble beginnings. An idea inspired by country fete baking competitions. The stakes were never going to be high; consequently, the proposal was rejected by all the major broadcasters for years. So, hats off to Anna Beattie, co-founder of ‘Love Productions’ for persevering. By 2020, the eleventh series received the largest audience for a TV series ever seen on Channel Four in thirty-five years. With such a fan base, the spin off, “The Great British Bake Off Musical”, can be generously served up in the West End with pre-cooked taste appeal.
As with all reality TV, the appeal is the human element. It is the personalities and their sometimes interlocking stories that we tune in for. Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary, the team behind the book, music and lyrics, have taken this premise as the main ingredient for their musical. A baker’s dozen characters mingle in the festooned marquee, held together by a tenuous and treacly love story. A marble cake’s mix of light and dark sponge. Pure indulgence, and escapism.
What ends up on our plates has the feel of a recipe-book revue, or song cycle. Showstoppers, foot-tappers and ballads are seasoned with lyrics that, although overall are delightfully clever and witty, should also come with allergy warnings. There is no doubt, however, that the musical numbers are a treat. There are no unfamiliar flavours, but they showcase the vast array of vocal talent on stage, most of whom have their own big solo.
Presiding over the proceedings are the presenters Jim (Scott Paige) and Kim (Zoe Birkett), with judges Phil and Pam: John Owen-Jones as a thinly disguised Paul Hollywood while Haydn Gwynne, as Pam, is a sassy mix of Mary Berry and Prue Leith. The contestants plough through the rounds of the competition, dishing up their back stories, establishing allies and rivals, voicing dreams and venting insecurities. Whether through song or dialogue they are pushed for time, so the scenarios and revelations are underdone, and half baked. Syrian student Hassan (Aharon Rayner) and Italian fashionista Francesca (Cat Sandison) bond over a shared feeling of not fitting in. Izzy (Grace Mouat) is ‘in it to win it’ until she gives way under the sheer weight of platitudes in the script. Claire Moore, however, is delightfully saucy as Babs the hungry (and not just for cake) granny, eliciting cheers from the crowd with her stand out number, ‘Bab’s Lament’. Moore is the leader of the double entendre – no mean feat as the whole company is grappling for a piece of the pie. At times ‘Carry On Baking’ threatens to usurp the show’s title.
Die-hard fans of the television series are well catered for, with mini-dramas pinched from the series to fill the gaps in a story as thin as spun sugar. Sliced fingers, melted ice cream and slapping strudels. And speculation about off camera romance; recreated here in the form of widow Ben (Damian Humbley) blending with self-effacing Gemma (Charlotte Wakefield) from Blackpool. A predictable path to a cloying conclusion, yet we are charmed by Wakefield’s winning presence, shedding Gemma’s humility to rise triumphant in her solo numbers.
It’s all in the presentation. It’s the icing on the cake that matters. “The Great British Bake Off Musical” is a ready-made recipe for success. The converted will guarantee that. And why not? Ultimately the force, commitment and musicality of the performers prevent it from sinking in the middle.
Reviewed on 6th March 2023
by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Manuel Harlan
Last month’s top show reviews:
Full casting announced for The Cardinal at Southwark Playhouse
Natalie Simpson (Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent productions of King Lear, Hamlet and Cymbeline) joins an eleven-strong cast to play Duchess Rosaura alongside the previously announced Stephen Boxer.
by James Shirley
Stephen Boxer, Sophia Carr-Gomm, Phil Cheadle, Ashley Cook, Marcus Griffiths, Patrick Osborne, Jay Saighal, Natalie Simpson, Timothy Speyer, Paul Westwood and Rosie Wyatt
Directed by Justin Audibert
Designed by Anna Reid
Lighting by Peter Harrison
Sound by Max Pappenheim
Stephen Boxer plays the Cardinal. Theatre includes Raising Martha (Park Theatre), The Inn at Lydda (Shakespeare’s Globe), Shadowlands (National Tour for Birdsong Productions), Regeneration (Royal and Derngate Theatres, Northampton and National Tour for Touring Consortium Theatre Company), King Lear, The Holy Rosenbergs, Aristocrats, Power, Volpone, At Our Table, White Chameleon, The Shape of the Table and Once in a While the Odd Thing Happens (National Theatre), Titus Andronicus, The Heresy of Love, The Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes, The Taming of the Shrew, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, Richard III, The White Devil and Rousseau’s Tale (Royal Shakespeare Company), Anjin: The Shogun and The English Samurai (HoriPro Inc., Japan and Sadler’s Wells), Written on the Heart (Royal Shakespeare Company and Duchess Theatre), Hay Fever (Rose Theatre, Kingston), Brighton Beach Memoirs (Palace Theatre, Watford), The Great Highway (Gate Theatre), The Hypochondriac (Almeida Theatre), Love and Marriage and God and Stephen Hawking (Theatre Royal Bath), A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (Almeida Theatre and National Tour), Ten Rounds (Tricycle Theatre), Antarctica (Savoy Theatre), Six Characters Looking for an Author (The Young Vic), Six Degrees of Separation (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield), Bartholomew Fair (Royal Shakespeare Company and The Young Vic), The Herbal Bed (Royal Shakespeare Company and Duchess Theatre), Oleanna (Haymarket Theatre, Leicester), Measure for Measure (Cheek by Jowl), The Clearing (Bush Theatre), Karate Billy Comes Home (Royal Court Theatre), Barbarians and The Duchess of Malfi (Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre), Faith, Hope and Charity (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith), The Water Engine (Hampstead Theatre), Judgement Day (Old Red Lion Theatre) and Portraits (Savoy Theatre). Film includes Postcards from London, The Gatehouse, Bomb, Ginger and Rosa, We Are the Freaks, The Iron Lady, Children of Men, Rabbit on the Moon, Seven Seconds, AKA, Mary Reilly, Crossing the Border and Carrington. Television includes Poldark, The Five, Agatha Raisin, Lewis, Lucky Man, Humans, Life in Squares, Toast of London, The Honourable Woman, Foyle’s War, Death in Paradise, Father Brown, Garrow’s Law, Luther, Doctors, Casualty, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, The Mould in Dr. Florey’s Coat, Midsomer Murders, Mysterious Creatures, The Quatermass Experiment, Silent Witness, Together, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Absolute Power, Cherished, Dalziel and Pascoe, Life Begins, The Bill, Trial and Retribution, Absolute Power, Rosemary and Thyme, Ultimate Force, Murphy’s Law, Sons and Lovers, Trust, Blue Dove, In Deep, Grafters and Prime Suspect II, III and VI. Radio for BBC Radio 4 includes John le Carré: The Biography and To a Mountain in Tibet.
Sophia Carr-Gomm plays Valeria. She trained at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Theatre includes Heartbreak House (Open Air Theatre, Brighton), Othello and The Tempest (88 London Road, Brighton) and King Lear (Citizens Theatre, Glasgow). Film includes The Inbetweeners 2. Television includes Shetland, Mr Selfridge, Doctors and World’s End. Audio plays include Doctor Who: River Song 3 and Doctor Who: The Day of the Comet.
Phil Cheadle plays Hernando. He trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Theatre includes Breaking the Code (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester), Henry V (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park), The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Chichester Festival Theatre and National Tour), Piranha Heights (Old Red Lion Theatre), Variation on a Theme and Events While Guarding the Bofors Gun (Finborough Theatre), Blue Remembered Hills (Northern Stage, Newcastle), Mrs Affleck (National Theatre), Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II and Bedlam (Shakespeare’s Globe), The Changeling (Cheek by Jowl), Neighbourhood Watch (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Tricycle Theatre and 59E59 Theaters, New York), Dear Uncle (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough), All My Sons (The Curve, Leicester), Far From the Madding Crowd (English Touring Theatre), Knives in Hens and Tartuffe (Arcola Theatre), Macbeth (West Yorkshire Playhouse), If I Were You (Library Theatre, Manchester), Strawberry Fields (Pentabus), The Tempest and Saint Joan (USA Tours for A & BC Theatre Company) and As You Like It (Northcott Theatre, Exeter). Film includes John Carter, Comes a Bright Day, To the Sea, It’s About Time and A Touch of Sadness. Television includes Dark Angel, Silent Witness, The Crimson Field, New Worlds, Inside the Titanic, Hollyoaks, Coronation Street and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.
Ashley Cook plays the King of Navarre. Productions for Troupe include Flowering Cherry (Finborough Theatre) and The White Carnation (Finborough Theatre and Jermyn Street Theatre). He trained at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. Theatre includes King Lear (The Old Vic and English Touring Theatre), The Mousetrap (St. Martin’s Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry), Romeo and Juliet (Derby Playhouse), A Doll’s House and The Importance of Being Earnest (Theatre Royal, Lincoln), She Stoops to Conquer and The Daughter-in-Law (Perth Theatre), The Art of Concealment and How to Cook a Country (Riverside Studios), Absent Friends and The Importance of Being Earnest (National Tours for London Classic Theatre),The Bootmaker’s Daughter (Brighton Festival), F***ing Men (Finborough Theatre), Love and Understanding (BAC), Stonewall (Pleasance Edinburgh and The Drill Hall), Cahoot’s Macbeth (King’s Head Theatre) and Much Ado About Nothing (Antic Disposition). Film includes A Mind of Her Own, Love in a Dangerous Time, Don Justino de Neve and Llar. Television includes The Bill, The Basil Brush Show and Patrick Hamilton: Words, Whisky and Women. Radio includes Behind Closed Doors: Excluded, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Bad Memories, Development, Inside the Whale, Inside Stories, Q & A, Life Class, Sharp Focus and My Turn to Make the Tea.
Marcus Griffiths plays Count D’Alvarez and Antonelli. He trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Theatre credits include King Lear, Cymbeline, Hamlet, Love’s Sacrifice, Volpone, The Jew of Malta, Richard II and Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company) and The Globe Mysteries and Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare’s Globe). Film includes Unhallowed Ground, Adored and Never Far from the Tree. Television includes Versailles, The C Word, Julius Caesar and Skins.
Patrick Osborne plays Lord Xavier. Productions for Troupe include After October (Finborough Theatre). He trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Theatre includes Noises Off (Nottingham Playhouse, Northern Stage, Newcastle, and Nuffield Theatre, Southampton), Peter Pan (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park), Shakespeare in Love (Noel Coward Theatre), Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body for Vibrant 2013 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights and Accolade (Finborough Theatre), The Seagull (Baron’s Court Theatre), The Pearl (Rose Theatre, Kingston) and Clockheart Boy (National Tour). Film includes Their Finest. Television includes The Borgias, The Genius of Turner and My Parents Are Aliens.
Jay Saighal plays Columbo. He trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Theatre includes Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and As You Like It (National Theatre), Othello and The Merchant of Venice (Royal Shakespeare Company), Ross (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Aladdin (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough). Television includes Spotless.
Natalie Simpson plays Duchess Rosaura. She trained at LAMDA. Theatre includes Cordelia in King Lear with Antony Sher, Ophelia in Hamlet with Paapa Essiedu and Guideria in Cymbeline (Royal Shakespeare Company) and Measure for Measure (The Young Vic). Film includes Tula: The Revolt and Balloon. Radio includes Words and Music: Women Walking Alone and In Tune: Sounds of Shakespeare.
Timothy Speyer plays Antonio. He trained at Guildford School of Acting. Theatre includes The Alchemist, Don Quixote, Doctor Faustus, The Witch of Edmonton, The Roaring Girl, Cardenio, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The City Madam (Royal Shakespeare Company), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company and Garsington Opera), The Ladykillers (New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Hull Truck), The School for Scandal (Park Theatre), Laburnum Grove (Finborough Theatre), The School for Scandal (Theatre Royal Bath), She Stoops to Conquer (National Theatre), The 39 Steps (Criterion Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Rose Theatre, Kingston), Pygmalion (Theatre Royal Bath, National Tour and Hong Kong Arts Festival), Great Expectations (Library Theatre, Manchester), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Shakespeare’s Globe), The Vortex (Apollo Theatre and National Tour), Arsenic and Old Lace and Arms and the Man (English Theatre, Vienna), The Anatomist (Eastern Angles), Goblin Market (Southwark Playhouse), Tom’s Midnight Garden and The Witches (National Tours for Birmingham Stage Company), Pygmalion and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Eye Theatre, Suffolk), Bridges and Harmonies, Mademoiselle Colombe and The Boundary (Bridewell Theatre), Puss in Boots (Polka Theatre), She Stoops to Conquer (Birmingham Old Rep), The Wind in the Willows (Torch Theatre, Milford Haven) and While the Sun Shines (National Tour for Channel Theatre Company). Film includes The Clap, The Mystery Man and Plonk. Television includes Call the Midwife, Shakespeare Unlocked, The Impressions Show with Culshaw and Stephenson, Londoners, The Dorset Hanging Oak, Wind Up TV, The Hutton Enquiry, Newsnight, The Unmarried Family and Crime Monthly. Radio includes The World at One and The World Tonight.
Paul Westwood plays Lord Medrano. He trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Theatre includes Lazarus (King’s Cross Theatre), King Charles III (National Tour for Almeida Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company), Dunsinane (National and International Tour for Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre of Scotland), A Life of Galileo (Theatre Royal Bath and National Tour for Royal Shakespeare Company), Three Men in a Boat and Dancing at Lughnasa (National Tours for Original Theatre Company), Two’s Company (Old Vic Tunnels), Outward Bound (Finborough Theatre), Seagull and Manchester (Arcola Theatre), Plucker (Southwark Playhouse), The Ring of Truth (Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond), Twelfth Night (York Theatre Royal), Great Expectations (Library Theatre, Manchester), Hapgood (Birmingham Rep), Starlings (Old Vic New Voices: 24 Hour Plays), Othello (Birmingham Stage Company) and Hamlet (Robsham Theater, Boston). Film includes Us and Them and Mortdecai. Television includes McMafia, Da Vinci’s Demons, Gracie!, Walter’s War and Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story. Radio includes Real Crime: The Hungerford Massacre and Voices from the Old Bailey. Writing includes Tides, Citizen Recall: Mrs Helen Stridgen and Zain Tyrannus.
Rosie Wyatt plays Celinda. She trained at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Theatre includes Spine for which she won the Stage Award for Acting Excellence (Soho Theatre and National Tour), Mumburger (The Archivist’s Gallery), The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Chichester Festival Theatre and National Tour), Worst Wedding Ever (Salisbury Playhouse), Blink (Soho Theatre and Traverse Theatre), Virgin (Palace Theatre, Watford), One Man, Two Guvnors (National and International Tour for National Theatre), Mogadishu (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith and National Tour), Bunny (nabokov) and Love, Love, Love (Paines Plough). Television includes Inspector George Gently, New Tricks and Doctors.
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