Viva Forever! (musical)

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Viva Forever!
Viva Forever musical.jpg.png
Promotional poster
Music Compilation of songs recorded by the Spice Girls
Book Jennifer Saunders
Productions West End: 11 Dec 2012 – 29 June 2013

Viva Forever! was a jukebox musical written by Jennifer Saunders, produced by Judy Craymer and directed by Paul Garrington.

Based on the songs of the Spice Girls, a British pop girl group formed in 1994, the show began previews at the Piccadilly Theatre, London, on 27 November 2012 and had its Press Night on 11 December 2012 and features some of the group's biggest hit songs including "Wannabe", "Spice Up Your Life" and the eponymous "Viva Forever".

Viva Forever! received some of the worst reviews of 2012 (and "arguably of all time"[1]) and it was announced on 2 May 2013 that the show was to close on 29 June 2013 after only 7 months with a loss of "at least £5 million"[2] and it was replaced at the Piccadilly Theatre by the musical Dirty Dancing from 13 July 2013.[3]

Plot[edit]

The musical is based on a band member named Viva who lives on a houseboat. The story starts when her band gets through to the audition stages of a TV show. The band get through multiple rounds of the auditions, but on the final round, Viva gets through, without her fellow band mates. As Viva follows her dreams, Viva Forever! charts her journey into the world of overnight celebrity and its impact on her mother and the friends she thought she’d have forever.

Background[edit]

The Spice Girls at the Viva Forever: The Musical premiere night, 2012.
Geri Halliwell at the première of the Viva Forever musical

In 2010, Judy Craymer teamed up with Geri Halliwell, Simon Fuller (the one-time manager of the Spice Girls) and Universal Music to start developing a musical entitled Viva Forever!, based on the songs of the Spice Girls.[4] Although the Spice Girls themselves were not to be in the show, they were to influence the show's cast and production choices in a story which uses their music but bears no relation to their personal story. This approach is similar to that of ABBA's music in Mamma Mia!, a show which Craymer produced and helped turn into a global phenomenon.[5][6] In August 2010, it was reported that Jennifer Saunders would be writing the script.[7] Saunders had twice previously worked with the group: the first time, appearing in the Comic Relief version of the "Who Do You Think You Are" video, the second, making a cameo appearance in the 1997 feature film Spice World.

On 26 June 2012, to promote the launch of the show, all five former Spice Girls attended a press conference in London[8][9] at the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, the location where the group filmed the music video for their breakthrough hit "Wannabe," sixteen years earlier, to the day.[10]

Productions[edit]

West End (2012–2013)[edit]

On 13 July 2012, the first casting was announced with Hannah John-Kamen as Viva and Sally Ann Triplett as her mother Lauren[11] and following previews from 27 November 2012, Viva Forever! opened in the West End on 11 December 2012 at the Piccadilly Theatre[12] after a delayed start, due to the late arrival of Victoria Beckham, one of the original group members. It was announced on 2 May 2013 that the show would close after only seven months, with a loss of "at least £5 million". Producer Judy Craymer told the Evening Standard, "Despite wonderful audiences, standing ovations and positive social media it has proved very difficult to fight back when such negativity was cast, especially in these very tough economic times." Due to poor ticket sales, the show closed on 29 June 2013. Only two of the group members attended the final performance, Melanie C and Emma Bunton.[13][14]

Musical numbers[edit]

When the show first opened, it included 23 musical numbers, featuring some of the Spice Girls' biggest hits including a mashup of "Mama" and "Goodbye", as well as two solo songs from the group's solo efforts: "Look at Me" by Geri Halliwell and "I Turn to You" by Melanie Chisholm.[15][16]

The following musical numbers were part of the show on opening night:

Principal roles and original cast[edit]

The following cast and characters are part of the show:[17]

Character Character description Original West End actor / actress
Viva A 20 year old girl, who lives on a houseboat with her adoptive mother, and is a member of a four piece all-girl band. Hannah John-Kamen
Lauren Viva's adoptive mother, who lives with her daughter on a houseboat. Sally Ann Triplett
Luce A member of Viva's band, and Viva's friend. Siobhan Athwal
Diamond A member of Viva's band, and Viva's friend. Lucy Phelps
Holly A member of Viva's band, and Viva's friend. Dominique Provost-Chalkey
Suzi Lauren's best friend. Lucy Montgomery
Mitch Lauren's friend. Simon Slater
Simone A TV talent show judge. Sally Dexter
Johnny A Judge on Viva's TV talent show. Bill Ward
Karen A Judge on Viva's TV talent show. Tamara Wall
Angel The musical director of the TV talent show Ben Cura
Minty A production assistant for the TV talent show Hatty Preston
Leon A stylist for the TV talent show Simon Adkins
Lance The presenter for the TV talent show Anthony Topham
Ensemble Ensemble members Tom Kanavan, Zak Nemorin, Curtis Angus, Luke Jackson, Oliver Roll, David Rudin, Darren Carnall, Myles Brown, Charlotte Gorton, Rebecca McKinnis, Lucy Thatcher, Roxanne Palner, Charlotte Walcott, Sophie Carmen-Jones, Carla Nella, Kirstie Skinvington, Helen Ternent

Changes to musical numbers[edit]

During the course of the show's run, several changes were made to the show's script and musical numbers. "Something Kinda Funny", was replaced with a reprise of "Wannabe", "The Lady is a Vamp" was reinstated into the show after being removed, and "Say You'll Be There" was re-orchestrated into an up-tempo number more similar to the original version of the song. The Entr'acte was shortened, "Time Goes By" was replaced with a reprise of "Mama", A few lines of "Never Give Up On The Good Times" were added and sung acapella into the second act of the show,"I Turn To You" was removed from the show as well as the reprise of "Saturday Night Divas", and "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)" was shortened.

Critical response[edit]

The theatrical reviews following the opening Press Night (First Night) were universally bad:

  • Daily Telegraph: "I'll tell you what I wanted, what I really really wanted – I wanted this terrible show to stop. Viva Forever! has absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever. This show is not just bad, it is definitively, monumentally and historically bad. I shall not dwell on the plot because, goodness knows, Jennifer Saunders, its writer, certainly hasn’t done. Its producer, Judy Craymer, may profess to have spent some money on it, but I have no idea where it has gone and, as for the songs, they are uniformly scummy, scratchy and screechy. There is no acting to speak of, either, so I shall not identify any of the girls who appear in it, lest they be subjected to recriminations. Thrown together without any great thought and ugly in every respect, Viva Forever! marks the West End coming to an unequivocal dead end. This musical is tawdry, lazy and unedifying, and one could sense a miasma of disappointment emanating from an audience of up-for-it Spice Girls fans realising that they had paid top whack to see a clunker."[18]
  • Daily Mail: "Producer Judy ‘Mamma Mia’ Craymer’s mistake was to hire comedian Jennifer Saunders to write the story. Miss Saunders is a wiseacre ironist, so default-sneery that she will not stoop to admitting the heart (sentimentalism if you must) which can make a musical sing. Add to that some iffy performances, gloomy backdrops and a lamentably slow start and you have the makings of a notable West End flop. It’s almost as if the thing has a death wish."[19]
  • Daily Mirror: "I found myself cringing as I watched from the third row."[20]
  • The Independent: "Charmless, messy, lacklustre... so lacking in any truly original or challenging spark of its own. Viva Forever! forever? I rather think not."[21]
  • The Guardian: "The real problem is the songs. For one thing, there aren't enough memorable hits in a career that lasted for three albums to support two hours of theatre."[22]
  • The Stage: "One of the biggest disappointments is Jennifer Saunders’ rather trite book which is symbolic of what is sadly a lazily put-together show. Saunders exhibits her lack of experience in writing for the stage. It soon becomes clear that the Spice Girls’ back catalogue is not generally of a high enough standard to be reinterpreted in this way."[23]
  • Evening Standard: "Jennifer Saunders’s script, which ought to carry us efficiently from one song to the next, is ponderous. Aspects of it are positively bizarre."[24]
  • TQS magazine: "Viva Forever! is an overlong, (mostly) unfunny and underwhelming show which makes even the most devout Spice fan question their musical taste."[25]
  • The Huffington Post: "The world premiere of the Spice Girls' musical certainly had its moments of high drama which kept the audience glued. Unfortunately, none of it was happening on the stage."[26]
  • Whats on Stage: "Jennifer Saunders’ confused narrative - totally un-theatrical, completely un-satirical."[27]
  • Sunday Express: "Viva Forever! is a phoney, manufactured musical about a phoney, manufactured band, marooned by a structurally inept, unfunny script."[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Viva Forever! vs The Bodyguard - Mister Producer - The Stage
  2. ^ "Spice Girls left 'gutted and devastated' as it's announced musical Viva Forever will close in eight weeks". Daily Mail (London). 
  3. ^ Dirty Dancing to replace Viva Forever! in the West End - Production News - The Stage
  4. ^ "The Spice Girls unveil West End show". BBC. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Bamigboye, Baz (21 January 2010). "Spice Girls musical gets green light at last". Daily Mail (London). 
  6. ^ Hoyle, Ben (22 January 2010). "Viva Forever Mamma Mia creator creates Spice Girls musical". The Times (London). Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  7. ^ "West Jen Girls Saunders pens Spice musical". The Sun (London). 28 August 2010. 
  8. ^ "Spice Girls unveil West End show". BBC. Retrieved 26 June 2012
  9. ^ "Reunited... and it feels so good: Spice Girls are back together as they unveil details of new West End musical". Daily Mail. Retrieved 26 June 2012
  10. ^ Sinclair, David (2004). Wannabe: How the Spice Girls Reinvented Pop Fame. Omnibus Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-7119-8643-6
  11. ^ Shenton, Mark. "Initial Casting Revealed for West End's 'Viva Forever!', Featuring Music of The Spice Girls", Playbill.com, July 13, 2012
  12. ^ "Viva Forever, Musical Featuring Spice Girls Songs, Confirms West End Opening at Piccadilly Theatre". Playbill. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Posh delays opening night show, The West Australian, December 12, 2012
  14. ^ Spice Girls musical premiere delayed while Posh is stuck in traffic | Showbiz | Entertainment | STV
  15. ^ "Viva Forever Musical Workshop Footage". YouTube. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  16. ^ "Viva Forever! Spice Girls reunite in London". Hello Magazine. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  17. ^ "Say You'll Be There: Hannah whips up the Viva fever ahead of Spice Girls musical". London: Daily Mail. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  18. ^ Walker, Tim (19 December 2012). "Viva Forever!, Piccadilly Theatre, review". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  19. ^ a b "Spicy? No, it's a prize Christmas turkey: Quentin Letts gives his review of Viva Forever!". Daily Mail (London). 
  20. ^ Spice Girls musical Viva Forever closing is sad news for fans - Owen Tonks - 3am & Mirror Online
  21. ^ Bassett, Kate (16 December 2012). "IoS theatre review: Privates on Parade, Noel Coward Theatre, London Viva Forever! Piccadilly Theatre, London In the Republic of Happiness, Royal Court, London". The Independent (London). 
  22. ^ Sawyer, Miranda (16 December 2012). "Viva Forever! – review". The Guardian (London). 
  23. ^ The Stage / Reviews / Viva Forever!
  24. ^ Viva Forever!, Piccadilly Theatre - review - Theatre - Going Out - London Evening Standard
  25. ^ Musical Review: Viva Forever | TQS Magazine
  26. ^ Caroline Frost: REVIEW: Spice Girls' 'Viva Forever!' Just Needs More Songs And Some Plot
  27. ^ Viva Forever! Reviews at Piccadilly Theatre - London - Whatsonstage.com

External links[edit]