Review Roundup: VIVA FOREVER! Opens in the West End
Charles Spencer, The Telegraph: I'll tell you what I wanted, what I really, really wanted – I wanted this terrible show to stop.... 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 slowly realising that they had paid top whack to see a clunker.
Caroline Frost, Huffington Post: Instead, we got a thinly-written satire about a thinly-disguised 'Starmaker' talent show, whose lead judge - quelle surprise - controls the results. While there is, perhaps, still a market for this cultural arrow-firing, a musical dedicated to the hits of a manufactured band, whose members still happily go on these shows as judges, isn't perhaps the best forum for it.
Lisa Martland of 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 (and that includes the unusually average work of director Paul Garrington, choreographer Lynne Page and production designer Peter McKintosh). Despite massive success on the small screen, Saunders exhibits her lack of experience in writing for the stage. Too many characters are sketchy caricatures or stereotypes, however hard the cast attempts to give them substance. Even the experience and talent of Sally Ann Triplett (as Viva's mother Lauren) and Sally Dexter's jaded and manipulative TV judge Simone cannot save the day.
Henry Hitchings of the Evening Standard: One of the main reasons for the Spice Girls' success was their big and contrasting personalities. Those are absent here. What remains is their music: a couple of brilliantly effervescent tunes, a few other catchy numbers, and a lot that even their fans might struggle to hum. When 'Spice Up Your Life' is performed, it's a genuinely buzzy moment. But there aren't enough really potent songs to make this a compelling jukebox musical. The first half is limp, the second better yet hardly electrifying.
Alun Palmer of the Daily Mirror: In a plot eerily similar to the Take That musical Never Forget, we see four-piece girl group Eternity on the verge of stardom through the Starseekers (read X Factor) TV talent show. But then judge Simone (Sharon Osborne) tells singer Viva to dump her three mates, go solo and make it big, which of course she does. It doesn't take Andrew Lloyd Webber to know within 10 minutes of the curtain rising how it will all end. All that is left is to enjoy the journey. And there comes the second problem. Laughs, from writer Jennifer Saunders, are surprisingly few and far between.
Michael Coveney for WhatsOnStage,com: Jennifer Saunders' confused narrative - totally un-theatrical, completely un-satirical - lays down a girl group audition for a TV talent show, "Starmakers," and suddenly lurches into something else: their sultry Posh lookalike, Viva (Hannah John-Kamen), is plucked for solo stardom and the rest fade into the background.
Peter Brown of London Theatre Guide: The production values are high, the songs are well-sung and the casting is pretty-much spot on, but the story is lame and the humour is vacuous, almost as if the script has been sanitised.
Libby Purves in The Times: I'm not sure we really, really wanted this. . . . Watching me print off my compulsory security pass for the blocked streets around Piccadilly, my husband's fine brow wrinkled in confusion. "Aren't the Spice Girls last century?" True: disbanded once, re-formed, disbanded again, congealed one final time for the Olympics. But they did form a legend: a breezy girl group after bland boy bands, carefully diverse ("Sporty, Scary, Ginger, Posh, Baby"), projecting an upbeat uncompetitive female solidarity, sexless as romping puppies. They even gave an interview to The Spectator in 1996 supporting Mrs Thatcher as a Girl-Power symbol.