Viva Forever! Reviews round-up

The reviews are in - and they stink

The Spice Girls were in London last night to promote new musical Viva Forever! penned by their good friend Jennifer Saunders and including their greatest hits from "Wannabe" to “Spice Up Your Life”.

The show was greeted enthusiastically by fans. Crowds gathered outside the Piccadilly Theatre in central London and all five Spice Girls were there to see the show's launch (although Victoria was late and so posed with her family).

But what do the critics think?

The Independent's Paul Taylor really, really wanted more silliness from the show. He writes: "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. Not only does her script rarely give you that necessary gleeful sense of expectancy about where the songs are going to be shoe-horned in, but it’s embarrassingly derivative of Mamma Mia! and looks  way past its sell-by date in its utterly surprise-free satiric swipe at X Factor."

The Telegraph's Charles Spencer gave the show a meagre one star calling it "fatuous and tawdry". He writes "I’ll tell you what I wanted, what I really, really wanted – I wanted this terrible show to stop...Jennifer Saunders’s script is almost insultingly banal as she tells the story of a group of lippy teenagers with more than a passing resemblance to the Spice Girls attempting to achieve fame on an X-factor-style talent show."

The Guardian's Alexis Petridis awarded it three stars, praising the cast as "largely great, particularly given that they have caricatures rather than characters to work with", but says the production's real problem is the songs. He writes: "In fairness, the Spice Girls had a handful of decent songs – "Stop" and "Say You'll Be There" among them – but elsewhere they're forced to rely on pretty vaporous album tracks such as Right Back At Ya and, at one panic-inducing moment, delve into the solo oeuvre of Geri Halliwell. For another, the lyrics are required to drive the action on, and the lyrics of Spice Girls songs are appalling."

The Huffington Post's Caroline Frost succinctly summed up the productions failures as needing more songs and some plot. She writes: "The only time the show came to life was, in fact, after it finished, with the whole cast prancing around joyfully to a reprise of 'Spice Up Your Life', played with the volume up, the requisite arms in the air (including the Spice Girls themselves, of course, in resolute cheer-leader mode), and big, conspiratorial smiles to the audience - you love this, too, right?Which we do. And which kind of makes you wonder why the producers didn't just hire a nightclub and make it a Viva Forever!-themed night, instead of all this hand-wringing nonsense about friendship never ending, and being true to yourself."

The Stage's Lisa Martland writes that the production failed to grab its audience. "Right from the start, during an overlong first scene which desperately tries to introduce all the characters in one contrived swoop, it is impossible not to make comparisons with its triumphant predecessor. Again the book revolves around a young woman (Viva) on a journey of discovery, of ‘finding herself’ and working out relationships with her mother and close friends. Except that this time there is not a missing father, but an absent birth mother created for some extra dramatic tension."

The Evening Standard's Henry Hitchings found this "limp" show only livened up at the encore. "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.

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