The Bakewell Bake Off
27th April 2018
Hampton Hill Theatre
Type of Production
Author: Jon Fox
Never having seen this new musical comedy before, I was prepared for it to be a spoof of the well known TV show. It was indeed a great deal more than that and was a comic delight from start to finish. One look at the characters' names, Victoria Sponge, Hugh Dripp, Susie Sunflower etc. showed what we should expect.
It so happens that I have family very near Bakewell and am thus well aware of what a real Bakewell tart actually does look and taste like, which made this hilarious romp with its range of oddball characters all the more engaging for me. The plot, such as it was, revolved around an EU directive stating that there can only be one definitive Bakewell recipe, which put the cat among the pigeons - and how!
Paige Fayers as Victoria Sponge was suitably extrovert, highly engaging and very charismatic as the announcer playing what amounted to the lead role. Beautifully cast in this bubbly excitable role, she had the audience in the palms of her hands.
Three diverse judges were given most distinct individual quirks and each excelled in their various guises. They were:- Zak Negri as Hugh Dripp, Claire Weston as Susie Sunflower and Carolyn Green as Griselda Pratt-Dewhurst. All were fiercely insistent that their own personal recipe for the original Bakewell Tart was the right choice. Much of the show's humour came from this "bitchy war" between them.
A host of other charismatic performers added their own humour and lustre to the show. In programme listed order as follows:- Gill Varon was Pradeepta Smith, the supposedly Kung-Fu black belt, fending off the unwelcome advances of Hugh Dripp and also singing an emotional and PC "Let me fit in" with much style; Ben Thomas as Freddie Twist, with his quality tenor voice, having the "hots" for Susie Sunflower, which she returned. Their duet " We might fall in Love" with saucy lyrics much in keeping with this show - was a highlight. Claire, as Susie, also showed a fine singing voice. Catherine Quinn, playing Sister Mary and revealed by "Les" - a man planted in the audience - to be the actual sister of Griselda played this nun to the hilt, also showing a pleasant singing voice, especially in her big number, with chorus, "Bake your way to Heaven".
Katy Simon was Flora Drizzle (I have met her sister "Lemon" many times before!). Her big singing number was "The Science of Baking" done most effectively and much was also made of dropping her upside-down cake on the floor! The ever youthful Lisa Guerriero was "The Original" Bakewell Tart, AKA Tina Martin, presenting her saucy lyrics to fine effect. Lisa always looks born to be on stage and here was no exception.
Shannon Hearn was the Christmassy Holly Berry, her "I Love Christmas" being delivered, at least partly, in parlando style and Shannon is clearly another talented player. A singing choir accompanied her "I Love Christmas" which I thought a skilful touch by the show's extrovert and experienced stage director Steve Green. Steve even dovetailed as the German transsexual Henrietta Apfelstrudel, in full female attire and blonde wig. His / her German accent was suitably OTT and his whole performance nothing short of hilarious. "Henrietta's Lieder" was another real show stopper.
There was a great deal to like throughout this production and innuendo was used so well. Freddie Twist with cream spilled all over him and Susie and saying "sorry that has never happened to me before", would have made even a corpse emit a belly laugh!
Costumes were good, if not exceptional and really fitted to the characters. Plenty of colour and life and as in Panto - with which this show had much in common - costumes were eye catching. Claire Weston, Gill Varon and Kelly Neilson co-ordinated. Kelly was also the choreographer, setting mainly uncomplicated and well carried out routines.
Lone pianist and musical director - directing from her piano on stage - was Debbi Lindley AKA Betty Batom-Burg. Debbi is clearly an accomplished musician and the singing she attained from her company did her credit. The songs were not perhaps ones that one would leave the theatre whistling but were all enjoyable on first hearing.
I liked the set layout and use of the audience, especially for the raffle scene, beautifully worked by Paige. Other highlights for my money were some of Zac's acid facial expressions as Hugh and the sheer tenor quality of Ben's voice.
All ended on a happy note with a rousing company rendition of "Recipe for Success" which perfectly summed up this invigorating production.
Lastly, a word for the enjoyable and well set out programme, with a gratifying full page devoted to NODA. Never a bad idea this, when a review is forthcoming!