Scott Paige on why ‘The Great British Bake Off Musical’ is a love letter to the TV show

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

“Everyone loves The Great British Bake Off,” said Scott Paige. He's not wrong. Over 5 million tuned in to watch the 2022 champion, Dr. Syabira Yusoff, take the title of Best Amateur Baker in the reality series. So could a musical adaptation of The Great British Bake Off be a recipe for success?

"It has to be done well because you’ll get avid Bake Off fans say it’s not right, but you’ll get that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you watch the Bake Off on TV.” continued Paige. So how do you bring the whimsical world to the stage and make sure it's not half-baked? Easy. Hire a sterling team of British creatives: Jake Brunger on book and music duties, Pippa Cleary penning the music and lyrics, director Rachel Kavanaugh, and the cherry on top of the cake, specialist cake designer Alice Power.

After a world premiere in Cheltenham, The Great British Bake Off Musical erects the infamous white tent and gingham bunting at the Noel Coward Theatre. Don’t expect any soggy bottoms, though — Bake Off on stage turns the audience energy up to 200 degrees.

Many of the original cast return for the West End run, including John Owen-Jones bearing a striking resemblance to Paul Hollywood, and Paige as television host Jim. There's new faces too: four-time Olivier-nominee Haydn Gwynne plays TV judge Pam, and Zoe Birkett joins Paige as a presenting duo.

Ahead of the West End premiere, we chatted with Paige about the first performances in Cheltenham, how Bake Off works on stage, and all the star bakers taking part.

The Great British Bake Off Musical is at the Noel Coward Theatre.

Book The Great British Bake Off Musical tickets on London Theatre.

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How does the musical incorporate elements of the television show on stage?

Our director Rachel Kavanaugh said we can go down two routes. We can go down a way where you're basically watching a full series of the Bake Off condensed to two hours. It'd be purely the contestants: You are the POV, like you’re watching on a TV screen.

Or we go the other way. We look at what it’s like with the backstage crew, so you'll see people walking around with headsets and the TV crew. But she didn’t want to do that because it breaks off the Bake Off world because you don't see that on TV.

It is essentially like watching a whole series, but you get to see all these different characters, and you delve into their world for a little bit. It's a brilliant love letter to the TV show, amplified with great music. You’ll get that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you watch the Bake Off on TV. Jake, Pippa, Rachel, and Georgina [Lamb, choreographer] do such an amazing job to keep that nostalgia.

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Unlike other reality shows, why do you think Bake Off lends itself to a musical?

We’ve got a small amount of contestants, so you don’t have to introduce a ton of people. There’s no sob stories for Bake off either. I want to see real, authentic people doing something that they absolutely love, and the passion that they have for baking is incredible. They get so emotional if something gets burnt, and it's so lovely to watch because they love baking. It’s British. It’s great. You can sit down as a family and watch it.

We’ve got a diverse cast as well, like experienced actors Claire Moore and Haydn Gwynne, as well as graduates making their debuts.

There’s a variety of different characters and personalities that it's so fascinating to watch. We’ve got Hassan, who's from Syria, who's a refugee. His story comes out, and you've just got these wonderful characters from all different backgrounds and cultures and ages. You don't ever get bored or tire of listening to these stories.

You play Jim, the Noel Fielding/Matt Lucas inspired character. What's your favourite part about playing a TV presenter?

They don’t just present. They have these little sketches; they’re not the mother role but they look after the contestants as well. I’ve never presented either, so it’s great to do a job where you're acting, do musical theatre, and present! It’s great being in a double act, with me and Zoe Birkett, who plays Kim, and it’s wonderful to bounce off each other. You don’t get the stress of having to bake either.

How does the baking work on stage?

Rachel said we can either do it where we bake on stage and make an absolute mess, or we could do the Waitress vibe and go with the choreography to emulate it almost, and that’s what we did. It works really well.

With it being Bake Off, people love to see the ingredients and what they make. Without giving things away, you see the spectacular showstoppers, but you don’t see the ingredients. It’s in a classy, choreographic way. It’s amazing to watch. It’s beautiful and hypnotic.

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How close are the judges in the show to the real people?

They are the same, it’s quite scary. John Owen Jones is Paul Hollywood when he plays the part. If you squint and you’re in a dark room, then you would believe that Paul is on stage.

We’re not taking the mick out of the judges. We’re making a nod to them. When Prue Leith came to watch in Cheltenham, she was just over the moon.

I assume all the popular phrases are in there as well?

Oh yes! There’s a great song John Owen Jones sings. There’s an episode of Bake Off where he explains how to slap strudel and make the dough. So in the show, there's a song called “Slap It Like That” for Strudel Week. It’s sensational.

What can we expect musically?

Honestly, I can’t give Pippa praise enough for writing such incredible, incredible music. You hear all the little jingles and all the little riffs that she's incorporated from the TV show in the musical and you go, “Oh my god, how has she made that into a song?”

Even when they're getting nervous and things are going wrong and they've got that little music in the background — that's in a song!

We’ve got a character called Babs, played by Claire Moore. She has a big lament at the end of Act Two, and Pippa’s incorporated all this glorious music and just created this absolute masterpiece. It's absolutely beautiful.

I remember watching Claire sing the number in rehearsals — we just had to stand up and applaud because it was just so incredible.

How would you fare as a Bake Off contestant?

I think I’d do terribly. I like cooking and I love baking. But I’ve never been good at maths, so measurements don’t apply to me. I just chuck everything in and then it ends up being far too salty. My sister owns a baking company, so I just look at her! I tried, but I’d fail — best to stick to presenting.

If you had to describe the musical as a baked good, what would it be?

It would be something like a very gorgeous chocolate cake, very sweet, sprinkled with a bit of comedy, dashing of hearts and lashings of joy. And chocolate cake is my favourite!

Why should people head to the Bake Off tent?

For a couple hours, you’ll be transported into this amazing world meeting all these incredible characters and watching incredible actors sing, dance, and be wonderful. It’s really touching, but with heart-wrenching moments as well.

This show is my favourite job! It’s the best experience with the creatives and doing the show. So when I think about the jobs, and my favourite thing, they're both like chocolate cake.

Photo credit: The Great British Bake Off Musical (Photos by Manuel Harlan)

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