Viva Forever? Not exactly - Spice Girls musical closes after six months leaving backers with £5m loss

  • @adamsherwin10

It was called, optimistically, Viva Forever! But six months of scathing reviews and audience indifference has forced the producers to call time on the Spice Girls musical which is to close, leaving its backers with a £5 million loss.

All five band members of the 90s girl group united for the high-profile launch of the West End show at the Piccadilly Theatre last November.

The musical was conceived by Judy Craymer, the impresario behind the global hit Mamma Mia! It was written by comedy star Jennifer Saunders.

Click here or on "View Images" for some of the biggest West End flops in pictures

However the show, which satirised The X Factor, telling the story of an aspiring singer who, with her best friends, gets swept up in a TV talent search, was savaged by critics.

The Independent’s Paul Taylor said it was “lacking in any true original or challenging spark of its own.”

Viva Forever! featured all of the Spice Girls hits, including "Wannabe" but word-of-mouth among audiences was poor. Some expressed disappointment that the show did not feature the Spice Girls as characters.

A revamp failed to improve ticket sales and cast members were told after Wednesday’s performance that the show would close on June 29.

Ms Craymer said: “The show has evolved since we first opened and is now brighter, lighter and funnier, but despite the wonderful audiences and extremely positive feedback we just can't make it work.”

The producer said she announced the decision to post closing notices “with a heavy heart”.

She said: “We set out to create a contemporary story that truly reflects our time; to take a satirical look at the underbelly of a TV talent show and the chaos that ensues for a mother, her daughter and their friends; a theatrical event to embrace all generations both on and off the stage.

“Testament to that achievement is the standing ovation at every performance from an audience of families and friends all enjoying a great night out.

The show was “taking its leave for now in the West End”, Ms Craymer said, leaving the door open for a future return.

Viva Forever! was backed by Simon Fuller, the music entrepreneur who put the “girl power” quintet together and Universal Music. It was hoped that the show would be rolled out as a global franchise, running simultaneously on stages from Broadway to Asia, where the Spice Girls became huge stars.

The band - Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton, Victoria Beckham, Mel C and Mel B - said: “We want to thank the cast and all the fans for their support, and although Viva Forever! won't continue in the West End we are thrilled that the thousands of people who came to the show had as much fun as we did.” Bunton later tweeted that she was “totally gutted”.

Despite Viva Forever!’s failure, a new “talent show”-inspired musical, endorsed by Simon Cowell, is set to open later this year.

The £6 million X Factor - It's Time To Face The Musical! will open at the London Palladium next Spring. Created by comic Harry Hill, the satire on the ITV talent show, featuring the judges as characters and 19 new songs, has been given the go-ahead by producers Stage Entertainment and Cowell's company, Syco Entertainment.

Biggest West End flops:

Oscar Wilde: The Musical

Written and directed by DJ Mike Read, the show opened at the Shaw Theatre in London on a Tuesday and closed on Wednesday after the kindest review called it “the worst musical in the world, ever”. Read, who lost a “small fortune”, revived the 2005 show last year.

Gone With The Wind: The Musical

Rare misstep for Sir Trevor Nunn as £4m stage adaptation of the classic novel Gone with the Wind, starring former Pop Idol contestant Darius Danesh as Rhett Butler, closes more than three months early.  “Blown away on gales of ridicule,” said the Evening Standard.

The Fields of Ambrosia

1996 musical about a travelling executioner in the southern states of America, who took his own electric chair with him wherever he went survived for just two and a half weeks at the Aldwych Theatre. The title song went: “In the Fields of Ambrosia/everyone knows ya.”

Moby Dick

Cameron Mackintosh’s camp, cross-dressing 1992 adaptation of Melville’s novel was harpooned by critics and closed inside four months at the Piccadilly Theatre. The Les Misérables producer predicts a Broadway revival inside two years.

Desperately Seeking Susan

How could a musical version of the Madonna film, married to the music of Blondie fail? Five years after the £4m flop closed after one month, writer Peter Michael Marino has returned with a new show inspired by the opening night reviews, called Desperately Seeking the Exit.