Viva Forever! (musical)
|Basis||Compilation of songs recorded by the Spice Girls|
|Productions||West End: 11 Dec 2012 – 29 June 2013|
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". The show generated over £2,000,000 in pre-opening ticket sales.
Viva Forever! was panned by critics, receiving some of the worst reviews of 2012. It was announced on 2 May 2013 that the show was to close on 29 June 2013 after only seven months with a loss of "at least £5 million".
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 bandmates. 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.
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. 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. In August 2010, it was reported that Jennifer Saunders would be writing the script. 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 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.
West End (2012–2013)
On 13 July 2012, the first casting was announced with Hannah John-Kamen as Viva and Sally Ann Triplett as her mother Lauren and following previews from 27 November 2012, Viva Forever! opened in the West End on 11 December 2012 at the Piccadilly Theatre 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". Due to poor ticket sales, the show closed on 29 June 2013. It was replaced at the Piccadilly Theatre by the musical Dirty Dancing from 13 July 2013. Only two of the group members attended the final performance, Melanie C and Emma Bunton.
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."
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: "I Turn to You" by Melanie Chisholm and "Look at Me" by Geri Halliwell.
The following musical numbers were part of the show on opening night:
Principal roles and original cast
The following cast and characters are part of the show:
|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-female 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-Chalkley|
|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
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 a cappella 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.
The theatrical reviews following the opening Press Night (First Night) were universally negative:
- 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."
- 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."
- Daily Mirror: "I found myself cringing as I watched from the third row."
- The Independent: "Charmless, messy, lacklustre... so lacking in any truly original or challenging spark of its own. Viva Forever! forever? I rather think not."
- 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."
- 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."
- 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."
- TQS magazine: "Viva Forever! is an overlong, (mostly) unfunny and underwhelming show which makes even the most devout Spice fan question their musical taste."
- 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."
- What's on Stage: "Jennifer Saunders’ confused narrative - totally un-theatrical, completely un-satirical."
- Sunday Express: "Viva Forever! is a phoney, manufactured musical about a phoney, manufactured band, marooned by a structurally inept, unfunny script."
- Viva Forever! vs The Bodyguard - Mister Producer - The Stage
- "Spice Girls left 'gutted and devastated' as it's announced musical Viva Forever will close in eight weeks". Daily Mail. London.
- Dirty Dancing to replace Viva Forever! in the West End - Production News - The Stage
- "The Spice Girls unveil West End show". BBC. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- Bamigboye, Baz (21 January 2010). "Spice Girls musical gets green light at last". Daily Mail. London.
- Hoyle, Ben (22 January 2010). "Viva Forever Mamma Mia creator creates Spice Girls musical". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
- "West Jen Girls Saunders pens Spice musical". The Sun. London. 28 August 2010.
- "Spice Girls unveil West End show". BBC. Retrieved 26 June 2012
- "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
- Sinclair, David (2004). Wannabe: How the Spice Girls Reinvented Pop Fame. Omnibus Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-7119-8643-6
- Shenton, Mark. "Initial Casting Revealed for West End's 'Viva Forever!', Featuring Music of The Spice Girls" Archived 2013-09-26 at the Wayback Machine, Playbill.com, July 13, 2012
- "Viva Forever, Musical Featuring Spice Girls Songs, Confirms West End Opening at Piccadilly Theatre". Playbill. 26 June 2012. Archived from the original on 29 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- Posh delays opening night show, The West Australian, December 12, 2012
- Spice Girls musical premiere delayed while Posh is stuck in traffic | Showbiz | Entertainment | STV
- "Spice Girls musical Viva Forever! to close in West End with £5m losses". Evening Standard. 2 May 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
- Dirty Dancing to replace Viva Forever! in the West End - Production News - The Stage
- "Melanie C and Emma Bunton are only Spice Girls who attend emotional final performance of axed musical". Daily Mail. 30 June 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
- "Viva Forever Musical Workshop Footage". YouTube. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- "Viva Forever! Spice Girls reunite in London". Hello Magazine. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- "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.
- Walker, Tim (19 December 2012). "Viva Forever!, Piccadilly Theatre, review". The Daily Telegraph. London.
- "Spicy? No, it's a prize Christmas turkey: Quentin Letts gives his review of Viva Forever!". Daily Mail. London.
- Spice Girls musical Viva Forever closing is sad news for fans - Owen Tonks - 3am & Mirror Online
- 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.
- Sawyer, Miranda (16 December 2012). "Viva Forever! – review". The Guardian. London.
- The Stage / Reviews / Viva Forever!
- Viva Forever!, Piccadilly Theatre - review - Theatre - Going Out - London Evening Standard
- Musical Review: Viva Forever | TQS Magazine
- Caroline Frost: REVIEW: Spice Girls' 'Viva Forever!' Just Needs More Songs And Some Plot
- Viva Forever! Reviews at Piccadilly Theatre - London - Whatsonstage.com