It’s the cosy TV baking competition that has spawned many a catch phrase (is there a way to fit a soggy bottom in here?), as well as a generation of home bakers. Now, that Great British institution has been turned into a musical, and following a run in Cheltenham last year, Great British Bake Off: The Musical arrives in London, swapping a tent in the countryside for the Noël Coward Theatre.
And if anyone knows how to turn a British institution into a musical success, it’s Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary, who have previously brought us the delightful musical version of Adrian Mole. Now they’re serving up a deliciously big slice of pure fun and family friendly entertainment.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Bake Off, you’ll know that at most, the drama consists of minor incidents such as pastry failing to rise, a scrambled crème pat, or a croquembouche not quite reaching regulation height. So, the musical follows the same recipe, saving much of the plot for a love story between two of the contestants.
Bake Off: The Musical condenses an entire series of the nation’s guilty pleasure into just a couple of hours, and includes everything you would expect; the tent, the contestants, plus the judges and presenters – though not the one’s we’re familiar with, Paul and Prue are replaced by Phil and Pam, and keeping everyone on time are Jim and Kim.
While there’s only a light dusting of a plot, this is more than compensated for with Brunger and Cleary’s fantastically catchy score, often comedic but with a real sense of heart too, such as when Francesca (Cat Sandison) sings longingly about a desire to have a “bun in the oven” in ‘Grow’, or when the love between father and daughter is beautifully portrayed in ‘My Dad’.
‘Rise’ is probably the musical’s showstopper, and Charlotte Wakefield comes top in the technical challenge too, with a stunning performance. But this is a true ensemble piece, Haydn Gwynne and John-Owen Jones are full of flavour in their portrayals of Pam and Phil, while Scott Paige is acerbically funny as Jim, alongside Zoe Birkett’s Kim.
Even the show’s antagonist, Izzy (Grace Mouat) isn’t all bad, and it just goes to prove that you don’t always need doom, gloom and tragedy to make a compelling show. This has all the highs and lows of the Bake Off tent and still retains that wholesome and pure nature of it all that has endeared audiences to the concept.
It’s worth noting that if you’ve never watched an episode of Bake Off, then many of the skits, in-jokes and double entendres are likely to be lost on you, but then, this big hug of a musical has clearly been written for the fans. Great British Bake Off: The Musical is a fantastic evening of escapism, much like the show it’s based on, you can get away from all the drama for a while, and just indulge in this sweet sugar rush of pure joy.