A star rating of 3 out of 5.

In preparation for seeing Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York), this author spent a embarrassingly-long amount of time coming up with cake puns. Whether that was because she’s a consummate professional who loves to be prepared, or because she fancies throwing her hat in the ring when Alison Hammond steps down from Bake Off, it would be impossible to say.


However, there will be no soggy bottoms, or indeed star bakers, coming in this review, as I found myself leaving the theatre last night with mixed feelings towards Jim Barne and Kit Buchan’s new musical.

On the one hand, Two Strangers is fresh, funky, and a welcome addition to the West End’s recent trend of smaller and more original shows making it into the spotlight – Operation Mincemeat, Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder and so on – on the other, it’s a muddled and tonally confusing show that never quite seems to land on what it wants to be.

The musical transferred to London’s Criterion Theatre after a sold-out run at the Kiln last year. It stars Sam Tutty as Dougal – a young British lad who arrives in New York to attend his estranged father’s wedding – and Dujonna Gift as Robin – the sister of the bride who has been given more than a few tasks to complete before the big day. One of them, you guessed it, is to carry the wedding cake across New York.

Right off the bat, the two stars are exceptional. Tutty’s performance as Dougal lovingly puts you in mind of a golden retriever crossed with Buddy the Elf (because apparently this is also a Christmas show?). With flawless comic timing and an infectiously happy grin, the character earns a spot in your heart before you even get to the first song.

More like this
A still from Two Strangers musical with Sam Tutty and Dujonna Gift in formal wear dancing.
Two Strangers. Tristram Kenton

Meanwhile, Gift is just as hilarious and bounces off Tutty perfectly. As the American in front of an English audience, her character could have been so much harder to relate to had she not given it the emotional depth it needed. However, Robin’s world weariness and heavy soul – best portrayed through the first-act song Be Happy – is something all of us can find similarities in, and absolutely sucker punches you in certain scenes.

Unfortunately though, the issues with the musical are out of the control of the two leads. For me, the show never decides on a single tone or message.

At the start, I would have said it’s a fun and offbeat comedy (almost the on-stage version of something you’d find on BBC Three). However, without much buildup it quickly swerves into something darker and more emotional (think a BBC One drama), before then shifting again to a cheeky, self-referential Broadway parody (we’ve switched to Apple TV+ now).

In the second half especially, the story moves from happy to sad to silly and back again, and while I’m not against a tonal shift, those in Two Strangers are so sudden and jarring that you can’t really tell what the show is trying to say.

The moments of Broadway Parody, however, are when the show really hits its stride. Songs like American Express and Dearly Beloved see Gift and Tutty play with all the clichés we’ve come to know from musicals and subvert them in the best way. Putting us in mind of a Gen Z Fred and Ginger, the two appear in the classic black-tie attire only to get absolutely wasted on someone else’s credit card, or swap dancing around in a ballroom for messing about in a drab Chinese takeaway.

If it had been like this the whole time, I would have left my seat full and satisfied, but sadly the show falls just short of a Hollywood handshake.

Buy Two Strangers tickets at TodayTix

For more theatre recommendations, here's our Hills of California review, our Standing at Sky's Edge review, and our For Black Boys review.

When and where can I see Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York)

A still from Two Strangers musical with Sam Tutty dancing in a bath robe.
Tristram Kenton

The show will run at the Criterion Theatre from 4th April to 14th July, so make sure you go see it while you can! Tickets start at just £18.

Buy Two Strangers tickets at TodayTix


You should also check out the best musicals on tour UK and the best open air theatre shows. Plus, how to get Inside No.9 Stage/Fright tickets.