Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Cake Off
Signature Theatre

Also see Susan's reviews of Bad Dog and Beautiful - The Carole King Musical


Todd Buonopane and Sherri L. Edelen
Cake Off, the fun and fluffy new musical receiving its world premiere in Signature Theatre's ARK Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, takes its inspiration (not its particulars) from the story of the first male winner of the famed Pillsbury Bake-Off, but there's more substance to it than that. The authors use the setting of a contest long dominated by women and question if the introduction of male competitors will somehow devalue the women's contributions, adding a deeper flavor to the entertainment. Also, any musical that features Sherri L. Edelen throwing raw eggs at the wall is worth seeing.

Creative talents Adam Gwon (Ordinary Days, Signature's The Boy Detective Fails) and Julia Jordan (Murder Ballad) join Sheri Wilner in adapting her original play. The setting of the 95-minute musical, with no intermission, is the 1996 "Millberry Cake Off," where the baker who succeeds in three cake-making challenges takes home a $1 million prize.

Rita Gaw (Edelen) is competing for the third time; she loves cooking and sees it as her main creative outlet. She left college before graduation and raised five children with her now-ex-husband. Paul Hubbard (Todd Buonopane) is a frustrated divorced father who bakes as a way to bond with his young son. The money would be nice for either of them, but they're both really after recognition—and the Cake Off is being broadcast live on a cable channel devoted to food.

Wilner and Jordan wrote the book, which includes some barbs. For example, the smarmy television host (Jamie Smithson) explains that the Millberry Sugar Trust introduced the Cake Off following World War II as a way "to thank those Rosie the Riveters for their help in the factories and send them back into their kitchens." (Smithson also plays two cartoonish female characters, one of whom tries to persuade Rita to put on some makeup and play to the cameras.)

Director Joe Calarco keeps the tension high and never allows the situation to degenerate into simple silliness: the stakes are high for both Rita and Paul and he makes sure they get the respect they deserve. Helping to maintain the pace are Jason Sherwood's revolving scenic design and the non-stop piano accompaniment by music director Andrea Grody.

Signature Theatre
Cake Off
September 29th - November 22nd
Based on the original play by Sheri Wilner
Book by Sheri Wilner & Julia Jordan
Lyrics by Julia Jordan & Adam Gwon
Music by Adam Gwon
Rita Gaw: Sherri L. Edelen
Paul Hubbard: Todd Buonopane
Jack DeVault/Lenora Nesbit/Nancy DeMarco: Jamie Smithson
Sweetie Boy: Ian Berlin
Directed by Joe Calarco
Music direction/pianist: Andrea Grody
ARK Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or www.signature-theatre.org


Photo: Margot Schulman


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