The Piccadilly Theatre, London, is hosting Viva Forever – the musical based on the songs of the Spice Girls… but I can’t imagine it will be doing so for long.
The Piccadilly Theatre, London, is hosting Viva Forever – the musical based on the songs of the Spice Girls… but I can’t imagine it will be doing so for long. An eagerly anticipated evening of fun and Spice Girl sassiness turned into a pantomime of nonsense, seemingly thrown together by one of the best writers in television – and it failed miserably. How did that happen and more importantly why was it allowed?
The show is billed as a story based around a mother-daughter relationship. The daughter, Viva, is persuaded to leave the band she has auditioned with in a reality show to try and make it solo.
The word ‘story’ is used loosely here; the mother-daughter theme is not heavily explored. We know she is adopted, Viva knows she is adopted yet her mother is adamant she should look for her birth mother even though Viva is perfectly content with the relationship she has with her adopted mother Lauren, played by the experienced Sally Anne Triplett. In fact Lauren is so determined as her daughter heads off to ‘boot camp’, where even Viva admits she may be there only a week, she hands over her adoption file and states that this is the time she should be looking. Really? No. It just doesn’t work on any level. There was no motivation behind the characters actions anywhere in the production. No stakes and far too much exposition. The scenes became incredibly rushed with Ab Fab caricatures delivering statements about the plot that should have been developed through dialogue. This I believe is one of the main faults. The brilliant Ms Saunders who wrote the musical is used to writing comedy for television where she knows the audience is a heartbeat away from changing channels…unless there is a decent joke every other moment. Theatre is different. The audience are in their seats waiting for the plot to develop and the characters too. We want to care about what happens to them – we want to know the outcome at the end of the night. We want to be moved by their choices. It ended up showing the Spice Girls songs up for what they were – upbeat popular songs that are great fun to dance to. A basis for a two hour indepth story they are not. There were some laugh out loud Saunders style jokes but they felt heavily placed – along with the songs just because that was the criteria.
The mother–daughter story was lost in the other storyline involving the reality show. It involved some over acting by the judges, in particular Sally Dexter – but who could blame her. She was probably putting in extra effort knowing it wouldn’t be around much past Xmas. At one point I thought she was auditioning for the wicked Queen in Snow White. The whole order of the reality show story was also bizarre; the group went on to a live show- then Viva went off to the judges house in Spain (so the audience could be treated to a carnival version of Spice up your Life) and there never seemed to be any other acts that she was competing with. Give Hannah John-Kamen her due, she could sing, so she may well have won when it came to Finals night. I wouldn’t want to give the plot away but the fact is I can’t because it all finished rather abruptly with no idea of what became of anyone! I’m sure I didn’t miss anything vital even though I had my head in my hands for most of the second half.
At the end there was an encore of Stop and a few other hits to boogie along to although I wasn’t the only one to remain in my seat, the huge weight of disappointment weighing me down. This was the best bit – and not just because it meant the end of the show had arrived. Here was a hint of Spice Girl cheekiness at last.
What I can recommend are the Spice Girls cocktails served in the bar. They were full of zest, body and well produced. It’s just a shame one can’t say the same for Viva Forever!