Review Roundup: VIVA FOREVER! Opens in the West End
Producer Judy Craymer presents Viva Forever!, the new musical written by BAFTA winning writers Jennifer Saunders, (Absolutely Fabulous, French & Saunders) and featuring the multi-million-selling songs of The Spice Girls. The show began previews on 27 November with the official opening last night, 11 December, 2012, at the Piccadilly Theatre in London's West End.
Leading The Cast is the highly accomplished Sally Ann Triplett and West End newcomer Hannah John-Kamen, who will play Lauren and Viva, the mother and daughter roles which are right at the heart of the musical.
VIVA FOREVER! is a romantic comedy that tells the story of a family thrown into chaos, as Viva (played by Hannah) and her three best friends (Luce played by Siobhan Athwal, Diamond by Lucy Phelps and Holly by Dominique Provost-Chalkley) get swept up in a TV talent show where stars are born and dreams are shattered.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Paul Taylor, The Independent: ...the evening only achieves the kind of deliriously silly and joyous lift-off that you really, really want from this kind of show – and more than once – at the encore when the company dances up a storm to a "Spice Up Your Life" under flashing lights and in a tightly-drilled orgy of camp, with Sally Ann Triplett's very likeable mother returning in a droll, glittery version of Geri Halliwell's famous Union Jack dress. This points to the fact that the Spice Girls' songs, with their clever hooks and catchy rhythms, are better at projecting an attitude than fleshing out a dramatic situation and it also indicates marked deficiencies in Jennifer Saunders' charmless, messy, lacklustre book...Hannah John-Kamen is appealing and in above-average voice as the eponymous Viva...Somehow, though, the other members of Viva's band...get bafflingly sidelined. Sure, Girl Power reasserts itself when they swarm on near the end for a vibrant performance of "Wannabe". But a rousing celebration of individuality and rebellion feels a tad unearned as the climax to a show that's so so lacking in any truly original or challenging spark of its own.
Alice Primmer, The Yorker: While satirising the evils of a contrived reality show is hardly a new idea, even the caricatures are tackled with such verve that it feels fresh. The plot plays with the themes of the original Girl Power group – friendship, loyalty and fun – but bases little on the band themselves. Perhaps I'm biased, but it felt much more clever and self-aware than Craymer's previous hit musical...Overall the Spice Girls' back catalogue was wrestled into a narrative surprisingly well, and a nice balance was struck between classics, imaginative re-workings and mash-ups...For those of us whose childhood was defined by the Spice Girls, it is undoubtedly one of the best feel-good musicals around. Suffice to say, if the thought of leaping out of your seat to bounce along to 'Spice Up Your Life' fills you with dread, then it's advisable to steer clear.
Alexis Petridis, The Guardian: The cast are largely great, particularly given that they have caricatures rather than characters to work with. At least one member of the audience felt less torn than he suspected he was supposed to be by the main protagonist's dilemma over whether to abandon her bandmates at the behest of a TV talent show mentor, on the grounds that her bandmates seemed only marginally less insufferable than the mentor: better to lumber yourself with one pain in the bum than three.
Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail: Producer Judy 'Mamma Mia' Craymer's mistake was to hire comedian Jennifer Saunders to write the story. Miss Saunders is a wiseacre ironist, so default-sneery that she will not stoop to admitting the heart (sentimentalism if you must) which can make a musical sing. Add to that some iffy performances, gloomy backdrops and a lamentably slow start, and you have the makings of a notable West End flop. It's almost as if the thing has a death wish.