With the popularity of The Great British Bake Off currently as high as a Raymond Blanc soufflé, a group of budding musical theatre stars from the Guildford School of Acting have cooked up a production to take advantage of the public's renewed love for baking.
Concocted by a group referred to in the programme as ‘the Baking Committee', the show tells the tale of a bake off in the Derbyshire town of Bakewell. A motley ingredients list of contestants combine to make a competition with more varied flavours than the trifle made by Rachel in that episode of Friends.
We have (loosen your belts to fit them all in): a tart with a heart, a shy postman, a nerdy lesbian science student, a nun, a girl who thinks her dad is Santa, an Asian doctor and a German transvestite. Each has their own story, a few of which are showcased in solo numbers. Some rise to the occasion more than others.
The characters are all clichéd for comic effect, and have of course baked showstopper cakes to match their personalities: a red velvet sponge for the tarty Tina Tartin (Lucy Emmott), a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte for Henrietta Apfelstrudel (Tom Beynon), a spicy apple cake for Dr Pradeepta Smith (Kayleigh Thadani).
Added to the mix are our genial host, retiree Victoria Sponge (Alexandra Spalding, who has a nice line in audience batter – sorry, banter), and three judges who cover the extremes of the sweet-sour scale: cherry pie personified Susie Sunflower (a very Sheridan Smith-esque Emily Jeffreys), toffee-nosed Hugh Dripp (Will Ferris), and the formidable Griselda Pratt-Dewhurst (brilliantly played by Cerys Alley).
Inevitably the plot also features Bakewell's world-renowned almond-topped tart. Or should that be its icing- and cherry-topped tart? Or its pudding? It's up to the judges (and a lucky member of the audience) to decide in the second act which is the town's signature bake.
The songs vary somewhat in quality, with many of the tastiest moments coming when the whole company sing in harmony. The choreography is simple but effective, always providing something to tempt the eye, and the set is a very convincingly constructed community centre, complete with noticeboard and bunting.
All in all, the show may have one or two slight ‘soggy bottom' moments, but with characters as kitsch as fondant fancies and a plot as light and fluffy as an angel cake, it still makes for an entertaining evening.
- Emma Watkins