The Great British Bake Off Musical at the Noel Coward Theatre review: half-baked
The latest addition to the growing list of unnecessary musical adaptations should carry a content warning for diabetics. Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary’s show tries to channel the plucky amateurism, warmth and end-of-the-pier innuendo of the TV baking competition but the results are wilfully lame and cloyingly saccharine.
None of the full numbers stays long in the mind, but a snatch of song called Big Hug – burbled to contestants evicted from the Baking Tent and actually containing the phrase “snuggly-wuggle” – lingered like the aftertaste of a sauerkraut and strawberry strudel. That this is a dish one of the onstage characters – a hyper-annoying hipster called Dezza – actually tries to create gives you an idea of the level of wit on show, too. Rachel Kavanaugh’s production is broadly well sung and exudes a brainless cheeriness, but overall it convinces me that the GBBO bandwagon has finally jumped the shark.
Poor Haydn Gwynne and John Owen-Jones are cast as judges “Pam Lee” and “Phil Hollinghurst”, cardboard caricatures of their TV counterparts, possibly fictionalised for legal reasons. “Pam” has a drink problem and looks to exploit her fame with endorsements and product lines. “Phil” has an engorged sense of his own importance and a terrible habit of chatting women up with knock-knock jokes.
Zoe Birkett and Scott Paige meanwhile are Kim and Jim, a generic amalgamation of all GBBO’s presenters. The contestants are off-the-peg types too: bitchy It girl Izzy; brash Babs from Stepney; fabulously gay Russell; widowed Ben, egged on by his adorable daughter; and “Gemma-the-carer-from Blackpool”.
Two attempts at deeper characterisation – Syrian Hassan’s refugee backstory, and Italian Francesca’s childlessness – are simply crass. Brunger is responsible for the script, which weaves an inane love story into the arc of a Bake Off season, as well as some behind-the flaps facts. The fact that every contestant’s oven is tested by crew members, who bake identical cakes in them every morning, was possibly the most valuable thing I took away from this evening.
Cleary composed the jaunty, forgettable music. She and Brunger share credit for the lyrics, which contain lots of stuff about rising, proving yourself and – yes, inevitably – soggy bottoms. Mostly the songs sound like they’ve been generated by ChatGPT software that’s been exposed to too much panto.
There’s a sniggering number from compulsive Master Baker Phil called Slap It Like That, and an old-school talkback tune I’d Never Be Me Without You which randomly mixes natural pairings and complete opposites. Gwynne at least gets to show her singing and dancing chops in the ageist anthem Keep On Keeping On, but otherwise Georgina Lamb’s choreography is limited and unremarkable. The sets, like the jokes, are flat. This is low-level entertainment for the undemanding, that never rises to the level of a technical hit, let alone a showstopper.
Noel Coward Theatre, to May 13; bakeoffthemusical.com