Thursday Theatre: The Great British Bake Off Musical

The Great British Bake Off musical at the Noel Coward theatre 

Good things come to those who bake!

After a rapturous ovation at the end of press night for The Great British Bake Off musical, former contestants from the television show plus other assorted people ‘off the telly’ spilled into the theatre foyer to talk to a small camera crew.

“Marks out of 5 for the show?” Asked the sequinned jacketed reporter.

“FIVE!” Yelled everyone who was asked.

The verdict was unanimous. Everyone loved the colourful, frothy, light as a sheet of flaky pastry, show. On paper it doesn’t quite make sense: a musical about a baking competition?

And it rises as tasty as a vanilla sponge.

“It’s wholesome British entertainment,” said one young man I couldn’t quite place but who was clearly important/attractive enough to be interviewed.

I couldn’t put it better.

It’s not deep or great art, just a fun, entertaining evening that will leave you smiling.

With a slightly amateurish feel to it, it’s what a traditional pantomime used to be before pantomimes were turned into a platform for the kind of coarse, sexually explicit ‘humour’ that made grown men wince the last time I saw one of the big budget productions at the Palladium.

There is plenty of sexual innuendo in the lyrics of some of the songs in Bake Off too but never does it make you feel uncomfortable. And the sauciness is funny, with clever plays on words to do with baking. Imagine the sort of risqué song Victoria Wood might have performed; Suggestive and jokey rather than vulgar and unfunny.

The songs generally are catchy and lyrically either funny or moving. It would be easy to dismiss some of them as cheesy but that’s lazy critique. It’s not that easy to write humorous words that rhyme and speak to a universal human condition. Anyway, how can you not love tunes that rhyme Je t’adore with petit four and despondent with fondant! 

The format of the show is instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with the television version. Eight contestants, a range of social and ethnic representatives of modern British society, gather in the famous Bake Off tent to show off their baking skills and gain the approval of the two famous judges; Phil Hollinghurst (John Owen-Jones) a leather clad, motorbike riding silver fox whose blue eyes middle aged women dream of sinking into and the prim and proper Pam Lee (Haydn Gwynn)who has a nice range in Pam’s pans at M+S. 

Over the course of ten weeks the contestants have to show off their talent for dough, filo and sifting with a delicate touch, making everything from the perfect short crust pastry to producing a focaccia in the shape of their face and a cake version of Blackpool tower. Each week one hapless hopeful is eliminated, leading to a big group hug as the contestants make friends, enemies and fall in love along the way. 

All human life is there in the bake-off competition. The seventeen year old Syrian boy baking to belong, the mousey young woman baking to find herself, the Italian woman baking a bun in the oven because she can’t make a baby in her body, the widower baking to keep his wife’s memory alive for their little daughter, the middle aged gay man baking in contentment, the three times married Eastender baking to assert herself, the canal boat living hipster baking to save the world and the ambitious posh girl baking to win at any cost.

Who will make the perfect profiterole, who will sink their soufflé and who will produce a scrumptious strudel and earn themselves a coveted handshake with Phil?

On a cold, rainy Monday night which may have resulted in a good few soggy bottoms at the beautiful Noel Coward theatre in St Martin’s Lane, Bake Off was a delight from start to finish with a surprisingly warm, soft and, dare I say it, moist centre.