The Spice Girls reunited yesterday for the launch of Viva Forever!, the new musical based on the songs of the girl band. Joined by book writer Jennifer Saunders and producer Judy Craymer, the five girls came together once again at the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel where they famously filmed the video for their hit debut single ‘Wannabe’ in 1996.
Viva Forever! will open at the Piccadilly Theatre on 11th December 2012 (previews from 27th November 2012). The musical follows a talented young girl named Viva who lives on a houseboat with her mother and enters an X-Factor style TV talent show with her best friends. Billed as a musical comedy, it takes the audience along on her journey into “the world of overnight fame and the impact on her relationships with her mother and the friends she thought she’d have forever.”
Craymer is no stranger to creating a show based on the songs of a popular band. She produced the smash hit musical Mamma Mia!, which has been running in the West End for 13 years and spawned numerous other productions around the globe, as well as being adapted into a big-screen film starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan in 1999. She describes Viva Forever! as a “heart-warming family tale that deals with the effects of media and celebrity today,”, emphasising that, “this is not a tribute show.”
Comedienne Jennifer Saunders put herself forward for the task of book writer for the musical, joking yesterday that when she heard about the project, she said “I have to write it or my daughters will kill me!” She already has some past with both Craymer and the Spice Girls, having spoofed Craymer and Mamma Mia!, as well as the girls in mock-band the Sugar Lumps, for Comic Relief. There are clearly no hard feelings however as they all spoke about Saunders in glowing terms at yesterday’s launch, with Craymer calling her, “a comedy goddess and a brilliant collaborator.”
True to form, the Spice Girls were hardly silent attenders sitting quietly at the back of the room. The five girls took to the stage to be grilled by TV and radio presenter Margherita Taylor, who hosted the event. When asked by Taylor what the legacy of the Spice Girls was, Mel B raised a laugh by shouting out “my bitches are great!” Victoria said the Spice Girls was a journey that everyone (they and they fans) went on together, adding that, “I think we’re going to be introducing Girl Power to a whole new generation… I’m hoping there’s going to be a load more people that are going to come on board, and we’re just so excited.”
Viva Forever! was work-shopped earlier in the year and the Spice Girls were there for a lot of the process. Speaking about the experience, Mel C called it “incredible” and said that the show was “better than we ever could have hoped for.” Mel B interjected with another comedy moment, saying: “they sing it better than we do.” Mel C then went on to say that to have their songs being performed night after night in a theatre was “a great honour for us”, with Emma Bunton adding that, “my little boy doesn’t know who we are, so I can’t wait for him to see this so he knows what mummy does.”
The West End is home to a variety of popular jukebox musicals such as Mamma Mia!, We Will Rock You and Dreamboats and Petticoats – the Spice Girls have had nine #1 singles and sold over 75 million records worldwide, so the creation of a musical based on their songs is hardly a surprising move, although as Geri Halliwell commented: “Sixteen years ago, I couldn’t imagine when we wrote the lyric ‘zig-a-zig-ah’ it would end up in a West End show.” Living up to her outspoken reputation, she went on to plug tickets for Viva Forever!, calling it “a show for mums, daughters and the whole family.”
The Spice Girls became a huge cultural influence when they exploded onto the music scene in the 1990’s, helping to herald in the age of ‘Cool Britannia’. Their message of ‘Girl Power’ spoke to girls of all ages, empowering them while emphasising the importance of friendship. “I love what they did for women’s confidence,” said Craymer yesterday. “The positivity, energy, humour, excitement and friendships that encapsulated the Spice Girls and their songs have inspired the whole creative team, and infuse Viva Forever!” Saunders added that after nearly two years of listening to their songs, she loves them even more. With such iconic music and the creative efforts of Craymer, Saunders and director Paul Garrington (not forgetting a weepy mash-up of ‘Mama’ and ‘Goodbye’), Viva Forever! is looking to well and truly spice up the West End, and just in time for Christmas – I have a feeling tickets for the show will be one of the top requests on Santa’s list this year.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Wednesday 27th June 2012