Spice Up Your Life in London
By Andrew Villagomez
London's West End was abuzz with 'girl power' and Spice Girls fandom with last night's premiere of the musical Viva Forever at Piccadilly Theatre. Though it's neither based on the lives nor starring the five Girls—now grown women and some mommies—the Spice Girls attended to show their full support of the musical created by Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous) and Judy Craymer (Mamma Mia producer).
The 23 musical numbers—including the hits "Wannabe," "Too Much," "Spice Up Your Life," and the song from which the musical gets it title—fill the two-and-a-half-hour show, making it a perfect evening for any Spicefan who listened to the fabulous group in the '90s. But critical response of the jukebox musical tell a different story.
Although the show received a standing ovation, not everyone was impressed. According to CBS, Mark Shenton (a critic for The Stage newspaper) tweeted that it was "a phony, manufactured musical" -- and not even funny. The Independent newspaper's theater critic, Paul Taylor, gave the show two stars out of five, calling it "lacking in any truly original or challenging spark." And The Telegraph's Charles Spencer gave the show one star, opening his review with: "I'll tell you what I wanted, what I really really wanted -- I wanted this terrible show to stop."
Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice) said she was not afraid of critics' verdict on the show. "If people criticize it, we don't care -- because we love it," she said. The Girls took the stage afterward during the curtain call.
And while the show did open with largely negative reviews, the Spice Girls are hoping it will follow the long-running success of other jukebox musicals such as Queen's We Will Rock You and Abba's Mamma Mia (which similarly enough, also received some negative reviews in the beginning when it opened on Broadway in 2001—specifically from the New York Daily News).
"The whole show is about a celebration," Melanie Brown (Scary Spice) told Rolling Stone. "It's fun and very passionate and exciting and that's what Mamma Mia is also. [Although] I don't think you can compare [the two]... you would hope that it's going to be as successful. All you can do is hope and wait and see." The girls are hoping Viva Forever, which has sold over £3 million worth of advance tickets in London, will eventually appear on Broadway.
The Girls have reunited twice this year, following their closing performance at the London Olympics. So, is a reunion for the Spice Girls in the works? "We always say that it's just a case of having that conversation and actually making it happen," said Brown. "I'm always the one championing the Spice reunion so you'll have to speak to the other girls about that one, we haven't had that conversation yet. I think quite a few of us are up for it, actually."
For ticket information on Viva Forever, visit the show's website. Check out the video below to find out more, including thoughts from the Spice Girls themselves when they first heard about the musical: