As much as we adore the TV show, with the wonderful work it’s done in platforming an incredibly diverse cast of contestants over multiple seasons – and of course, for its penchant for entertainingly smutty innuendo – we weren’t entirely sure The Great British Bake Off would really lend itself to a musical theatre show. To an extent, we were right: there’s not a huge amount here in terms of plot, and while we warmed to the characters, most of the people we met during the show didn’t have the most nuanced or developed back stories. It’s all very light entertainment stuff, staying extremely authentic to its source material.
That said, we enjoyed The Great British Bake Off Musical a lot more than we were expecting to. Originally premiering in Cheltenham last year, Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary’s show has now opened on the West End for an eight-week run. It strikes a remarkable balance between catering to fans of the show and, more generally, fans of musical theatre.
For Bake Off aficionados, the two judges are based heavily on Paul Hollywood and Pru Leith: John Owen-Jones as Phil Hollinghurst and Haydn Gwynne as Pam Lee are perfect as our leading pair, adopting the fashion tastes and mannerisms of the two celebrity judges with an assured confidence. Zoe Birkett and Scott Paige as our hosts Kim and Jim are a lot of fun, the latter delivering a handful of deliciously deadpan one-liners. Fans will also spot a handful of references to well-known incidents from the show, including a dessert almost being binned and an ice cream mix up.
Yet there’s plenty in here for fans of musical theatre to enjoy too, whether or not they’re familiar with the show on which this is based. There’s a soaring 11 o’clock number, delivered brilliantly by underdog contestant Gemma (Charlotte Wakefield); older contestant Babs (Claire Moore) has a hilarious showstopper moment; while our judges have perhaps the most memorable number of the whole evening, a charmingly daft duet called “I’d Never Be Me Without You” which feels like it owes a substantial debt to “You’re The Top” from Anything Goes (which is of course no bad thing).
The Great British Bake Off Musical is a surprise – there may not be a huge amount to the plot, and most of the characters are fairly one-dimensional, but at the same time it has a lot of heart, there are some objectively brilliant jokes, and the songs are really rather good. It’s also very much not just one for the fans – there’s plenty here for all to enjoy: a delectable sweet treat of a night out on London’s West End.
GAY TIMES gives The Great British Bake Off Musical – 4/5
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