Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
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 recognitionand 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.