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Review: The Great British Bake Off Musical (Noel Coward Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale

With so many revivals and jukebox musicals dominating the West End lately, it’s been rarer to find a brand new original musical. However, one has risen from the most unlikely of sources – The Great British Bake Off. The West End has been crying out for a new show about baking ever since Waitress shut up shop and Bake Off has lent its signature, hoping to fill that pie shaped hole. While on paper it might seem like a recipe for disaster, can it defy these expectations or was it a case of soggy bottoms all around?

The Great British Bake Off Musical is inspired by the Channel 4 (formerly BBC) TV series which sees a group of amateur bakers compete to be crowned star baker. While that may not seem like the most riveting of concepts, when you add in baking disasters, recipes nobody has ever heard of and unplugged freezers (She should have been imprisoned for that crime) it becomes more captivating than a look at Matt Hancocks WhatsApp messages. The musical adaptation premiered in Cheltenham last year and has now transferred to the West End for a limited run.

Let’s talk about the technical (the elements in the production I mean, not the challenge) - The Noel Coward Theatre has been transformed into the Bake Off Tent thanks to a glorious set design by Alice Power (also brilliantly credited as the Cake designer). A fantastic recreation of the iconic tent is less static than you might expect thanks to moving parts and some surprising transitions that transports the action from Paris to Blackpool. Fantastic projection design from George Reeve brings a fun aesthetic to the show while Ben Cracknell’s expert lighting ensures the whole thing always looks stunning. Director Rachel Kavanaugh clearly has fun with all of these elements, creating a show that is always entertaining to watch, with Georgina Lambs choreography providing some showstopping moments.

Written by Jake Brunger, The Great British Bake Off Musical is a completely joyous couple of hours. Rip-roaringly funny, it takes some of the more unique elements of the TV series and amplifies it to ridiculous and almost absurd levels. Be it the male Judge presence in the tent (and brilliant scenes involving his motorcycle) to a villain among the bakers. This is a show that firmly has its tongue in its cheek. Its intent is to put a smile on the audiences faces – something it manages with ease. There are some truly hilarious one liners, more innuendo than you can shake a stick at and some fantastic visual gags. Aside from one rare moment where a joke fell flat (Elizabeth line anyone?) the hit rate for the gags here are impressive and had me in tears at points.

While it is a funny and silly show, this is a show that reveals a hidden layer when you cut into it (Cake?) as it is choc-full of heart. Each of the eight bakers have their own story to tell and while some are more fleshed out than others, they are full of humanity and all its complexities. From the challenges and heartbreaks life has, some of the surprising themes in Bake Off include coping with loss and, indeed, coping with losing. Whereas this might be cheesy in other hands, this is done with the right degree of sensitivity here, allowing us to fall in love with the characters and root for them to win (Most of them anyway)

The music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary and Jake Brunger are a refreshing mix of classic sounding musical theatre numbers with a more contemporary, pop music feel. Full of instant earworms, this is a collection of songs expertly crafted in a way that feels immediately familiar and always satisfying. Highlights among the consistently high quality numbers are big early number ‘Obviously’ performed by Grace Mouat, the beautifully sentimental ‘My Dad’ and the showstopping eleven o clock number that is ‘Rise’ performed by Charlotte Wakefield as Gemma. Full of witty lyrics and hummable melodies, the (soon to be released) cast recording of Bake Off will make a welcome addition to any musical theatre fans collection.

With that, it’s time to talk about the cast. While many West End shows can boast the highest quality casts, I can’t think of many that have a cast quite simply as phenomenal as this. There are far too many standouts among them that I could talk at length about each of them – but I have a bun in the oven so time is limited.

Eight bakers assemble in a bid to be crowned star baker. Michel Cahill brings a classic touch of camp to Russell while Aharon Rayner is hard not to fall in love with as Hassan. Jay Saighal gets a short but sweet time as Dezza while Cat Sandison melts hearts with her story as Francesca. Damian Humbley delights as Ben and Claire Moore is a comic highlight with her scene-stealing turn as Babs. Fresh from her time as Cinderella (the good one), Grace Mouat gets to sink her teeth into something a bit more bad with her villainous turn as Izzy. Absolutely sensational in the role, she has you rooting for her even when she is doing dastardly deeds in an impressive performance that proves her versatility as an actress. The bakers are completed by Charlotte Wakefield who forms the true heart of the show with her amazing turn as Gemma. A true powerhouse performer, she captivates everyone in an undoubted star performer.

The two presenters Kim and Jim are played by Zoe Birkett and Scott Paige, forming a double act that could give Mel and Sue (who?) a run for their money. With flawless chemistry and precise comic timing, the scenes the pair are in are always a joy to watch, both getting moments to shine individually and together. Zoe Birkett in particular has long proven herself to be a formidable talent and here gets to prove just why that is. Scott Paige always shines in any role he gets and here really is no different.

The main cast are completed by the two judges, Pam Lee and Paul Hol… sorry, I mean Phil Hollinghurst. Played by Haydn Gwynne and John Owen-Jones, to say they dominate the show whenever they appear on stage, no matter how fleeting each appearance may be, would be an understatement. Another formidable double act, their off screen banter are among the highlights of the show as is their instantly classic duet ‘I’d Never Be Me Without You’. Haydn Gwynne astounds as the “old lush” with a knack for a good innuendo – her “Not the first time I’ve had something explode in my face” had me gasping for breath! Haydn also manages a surprising yet scintillating sequence in act 2 opener ‘Keep On Keeping On’, showcasing her impressive talents.

If there is one performance I am going to remember from this show, however, it will be John Owen-Jones note-perfect portrayal of Phil. Anyone who has seen John in concert before will know what a character he is - as well as his unrivalled singing voice, it’s his large personality and sharp wit that makes him such an unstoppable performer. Here, he is played to every strength he has in a true tour-de-force performance. His mannerisms of the similarly named Bake Of judge who inspires him are note-perfect as his comic timing and the swagger he has on stage. Whether he is shaking someone’s hand or looking disapprovingly, he gives potentially the comic performance of the year. Of course, he gets to show off his phenomenal vocal range too with the hilarious ‘Snap It Like That’ playing to every strength he has.

If you expect a show like The Great British Bake Off Musical to be a bigger disaster than some of the challenges that send Bakers home on the series, you couldn’t be more wrong. Brilliantly written and phenomenally acted, this feelgood show is the perfect recipe for a good night out. It starts strong and continues to rise until its showstopper finale. With its unbeaten ability to make you smile, Bake Off is pure joy in a bottle. Turning the heat up in the West End, this show is quite simply delicious and one that is well worth spending your hard earned dough on. When it comes to star bakes, this show wins them all – all five of them.


The Great British Bake Off Musical plays at the Noel Coward Theatre until 13th May. Tickets from

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