On your marks, get set, bake! A phrase many of us are familiar with from The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) TV show phenomenon, this new musical adaptation takes the audience to the heart of the Bake Off tent. Featuring not just the main competition, but also behind the scenes drama and the contestants’ personal aspirations, to create a multi-tiered sensation.
Although this is a baking competition, one can argue that the baking is merely a vehicle to draw out the main attractions of GBBO, which has always been its wholesomeness, relatable contestants, and unstoppable innuendos from the judges and presenters. The Great British Bake Off Musical is no different. While baking terminologies are cleverly woven into the lyrics and dialogue, these rarely (if at all) play a role in the story. Instead, it is about the competitors, why they applied and how they grow throughout the competition.
The pacing of this show is practically perfect. There’s a hilariously quirky prologue, designed to throw the audience off before making it into a hilarious comeback. Some may be concerned that far too few contestants are eliminated in Act I, resulting in a rushed Act II. However, Jake Brunger’s script is so meticulously crafted that any doubts are quickly dispersed. The many famous mishaps over the years, bin-gate, stolen ice cream, serious injuries and toppled baked monuments, all make an appearance in a single musical number, stirring up the memories of those who still reminisce about those precious catastrophic events.
Among a list of likeable characters, the stories of Gemma (Charlotte Wakefield) and Ben (Damian Humbley) are particularly well written, with Gemma gaining more confidence and Ben overcoming his grief for reasons that shall remain a secret to avoid spoilers. Similarly, we are also shown snippets of Francesca (Cat Sandison) and Hassan (Aharon Rayner)’s struggles, both of which are highly impactful. The audience is treated to flavours of personalities and there is just enough time allocated to each one for them to rise to the occasion. Izzy (Grace Mouat) despite being depicted as a villain, is redeemed by the end of her character arc. Mouat’s performance is hilarious and dramatic, and even though she caused much mayhem, it is difficult to dislike her character. Presenters Jim (Scott Paige) and Kim (Zoe Birkett) and the judges, Pam (Haydn Gwynne) and Phil (John Owen-Jones) have amazing compatibility and chemistry, bouncing off each other with an endless stream of NSFW jokes.
The performance primarily takes place inside the Bake Off tent and it perfectly represents the TV show. A plain curtain is used cleverly as the entrance to the tent and doubles up as a blank canvas for any changes in lighting and projections.
However, despite the many perfect creative choices, some improvements could be made. For example, the use of a whisk or spatula as a microphone, and moving the mixing bowl around one’s circumference during the dance routines, are used too many times throughout the show. Furthermore, “Keep on keeping on”, Pam’s opening number for Act II, is a little too long and doesn’t add much to the overall narrative of the story. But these issues are very minor and may well balance out as the show’s run progresses.
The Great British Bake Off Musical is straight forward with an easy-to-follow story, and catchy contemporary musical numbers. It does what the TV show does best, follow a tried and tested recipe. First, weigh up the signature humour, technical mishaps and showstopper innuendos, mix in wholesome and relatable contestants, and bake until it is well-risen, warm and fluffy.
Book and lyrics: Jake Brunger
Music and lyrics: Pippa Cleary
Director: Rachel Kavanaugh
Musical supervisor: Mark Collins
Choreographer: Georgina Lamb
The Great British Bake Off plays at Noel Coward Theatre until 13 May 2023. Further information and tickets are available here. (Note this is an affiliate link for LoveTheatre, Everything Theatre will receive a small commision for every sale via this link, which goes towards the upkeep of this site.)