Book by Jennifer Saunders
Piccadilly Theatre, Denman Street, London W1D 7DY
Now Booking until June 8
If you go to the new musical Viva Forever! expecting it to be the story of the Spice Girls, you will be very disappointed. But you may be disappointed anyway. Viva Forever! is based on the hit songs of the Spice Girls, but nonetheless, the whole thing is a big mess.
Viva (Hannah John-Kamen) lives on a houseboat in London with her adopted mother Lauren (Sally Ann Triplett) and spends most of her time with her three female friends hanging out and singing and hoping to form a girl group (see what they have done here?).
The girls try out for a singing talent show, with the glitzy flashing lights and all, but the judges (Bill Ward, Sally Dexter and Tamara Wall – all very horrible and trying very hard) see something special in Viva. They believe that she has the ‘wow factor’ and that she alone will become a star. So they groom her to become the star they want her to be. In the meantime, they want to reunite her with her real mother to bring more drama to her story and of course in the long run to generate more record sales.
And that is pretty much it! That’s the whole show. To call it a disappoinment is putting it midly.
I was shaking my head throughout the whole thing. It is not bad – it is a train wreck. The talent segments during the show are obviously copied straight from X Factor. And the presenters, Ward, Dexter and Wall, overact to the point of disbelief. Dexter’s character Simone, devoid of facial expression, is Viva’s mentor (again, X Factor), but she acts like it is all about her and how she can become more rich off Viva. Viva finds romance, but only in the second half of the show, a little too late, and it feels forced, like something included at the last minute. With Dexter on stage more than John-Kamen, you begin to think the show is actually about her. The blame for this mess goes to Jennifer Saunders, who wrote the book, and producer Judy Cramer (who enjoyed massive success with Mamma Mia). What were they thinking? The songs of the Spice Girls are expected, but they make no sense with the story. One song in the show begins with references to pubic hair, a hint that it was all downhill from there.
Will this show be a hit? Perhaps. Die hard Spice Girls fans will buy tickets and keep this show alive for at least the next year. But if you are not a huge Spice Girls fan, don’t bother.