Review: Viva Forever! (Piccadilly Theatre)

I’ve adored The Spice Girls ever since they first popped onto the scene. I can remember being thrilled when one of my friends had a Spicey 8th birthday party, and I was naturally the only boy on the guestlist. I even travelled all the way to Paris with my Mum and Nan to see them in concert- although I missed the first 15 minutes because I had my head over the toilet bowl, vomiting due to being so excited. So it was with a mixture of trepidation and a bubbly tummy that I headed to see the jukebox musical based on their biggest hits. This time I had my head firmly away from any lavatories, although I could still detect a faint whiff of nausea in the auditorium.

Now, I love musicals, I will watch ANYTHING, but I’m struggling to express exactly how disappointed I was. With more shoehorning of songs than a Barratt’s sale on summer wedges, the show felt incomplete, rushed and completely confused about who’s story this was meant to be. Our leading lady, Viva (Hannah John-Kamen) was distinctly unlikeable, and her three friends who were meant to be representing the rest of the Spice brand were basically irrelevant to the entire show. In fact, when they made a ‘triumphant’ return at the end I couldn’t even remember who they were.

Set in the world of reality television, the story follows Viva and her three mates on their quest for stardom. However, there was nothing to root for – the love subplot for Viva herself was frankly embarrassing – and there was no dramatic tension or real heart. It was more superficial than Helen Flanagan’s fake tan.

We all know The Spice Girls for their energetic music and their endless energy. We loved them because each of their uptempo hits were a real party starter, but in Viva Forever! there’s only a measly two big dance production numbers. It’s like they spent all the money on the set and suddenly remembered to hire a choreographer two weeks before it hit the stage. And don’t even get me started on those numbers- ‘Spice Up Your Life’ might as well be renamed to Nando’s Mango and Lime because it certainly failed to ignite a fire in the genuinely baffled audience.

The potential here was fantastic, but the show is too dialogue heavy. It’s like Jennifer Saunders has written it predominantly for the television. It’s clunky and not actually that funny, something which I expected having such a national institution at the helm. The saving grace came from the cast, who did give it everything they had. Sally Ann Triplett as Viva’s adoptive mother Lauren, made the most of what she was given, and she deserves a medal for driving ’2 Become 1′ away from the cringe worthy number I feared it could be. Sally Dexter as Viva’s talent show mentor Simone, is a mix between Sharon Osbourne and Stephanie Beacham, but is nevertheless very entertaining. The real stand out in my opinion comes in the form of the hilariously funny cameo from Simone’s assistant Minty played by Hatty Preston. This hashtagging, Made In Chelsea wannabe is played with perfect comic timing by Preston, and generates the majority of the laughter.

It’s with a heavy heart that I write so many bad things about one show, and I feel sorry for the cast and crew who can’t fail to be upset with all the negative reviews I’ve seen pouring in, but sadly it’s the truth.

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want; Those two and a half hours of my life back.

No wonder Posh turned up late to the premiere performance, somebody must have warned her.

Viva Forever! is running at the Piccadilly Theatre, Denman Street, London. Tickets can be purchased through their official website or by calling 08448 713055.

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