All five members – Melanie Brown (Scary Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty), Emma Bunton (Baby) and Victoria Beckham (Posh) – came onstage at the Piccadilly Theatre at the end of the performance to thank the cast and production staff for “making the Spice Girls dream come true.” Celebrities including Michael Caine, Joan Collins, David Beckham and Andrew Lloyd Webber were in the audience for the show – which uses the Spice Girls catalogue to tell the story of a girl group trying to make it big on an X Factor-esque talent show – with hundreds of fans and dozens of paparazzi outside the theater.
“The whole show is about a celebration,” Brown told Rolling Stone afterwards. “It’s fun and very passionate and exciting and that’s what Mamma Mia is also. [Although] I don’t think you can compare [the two] . . . you would hope that it’s going to be as successful. All you can do is hope and wait and see.”
Indeed, Viva Forever was produced by Mamma Mia producer Judy Craymer and, like We Will Rock You, features a script by a British comedian (Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders, rather than Ben Elton).
However, the Spice Girls three-album catalogue lacks the depth of either of the other acts, and the musical consequently starts slowly, with plenty of time passing before the first big hit numbers (“Too Much” and “Stop”) appear. Most of the more well-known songs are saved for the second half, with the plot sometimes stretched to fit them in, as when the action temporarily moves to Spain, seemingly only so that “Spice Up Your Life” can be performed.
Aimed squarely at the girls’-night-out crowd, it features a strong female cast while Saunders’ script delivers plenty of laughs, some of them ironic. There’s much criticism of the talent show format as the group’s central character, Viva (played by Hannah John-Kamen), ditches her bandmates in search of solo stardom, although it was Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller – also in the audience – who created the American Idol franchise.
Inevitably, the audience reacted best to the biggest hits, particularly a raucous version of “Wannabe” at the end, and an amusing take on “Two Become One,” used to soundtrack an awkward middle-aged couple getting together. Halliwell picked the latter as a highlight, telling Rolling Stone it was “very ironic and funny and poignant.”
“The show had so many layers to it,” said Halliwell. “It’s funny and warm but it’s clever . . . It exceeded my expectations. It blew me away because, imagine if you have a dream and it actually materializes; to actually digest it was absolutely phenomenal.”
Seeing all five members together onstage will raise hopes of another Spice Girls reunion, although Beckham arrived separately to the others and didn’t join them at the aftershow party. The group last performed together at the Olympics Closing Ceremony in August. Their last full tour ended in 2008, although neither Brown nor Halliwell ruled out further reunions.
“We always say that it’s just a case of having that conversation and actually making it happen,” said Brown. “I’m always the one championing the Spice reunion so you’ll have to speak to the other girls about that one, we haven’t had that conversation yet. I think quite a few of us are up for it, actually.”
“I think we’re going to end up like the Rolling Stones,” said Halliwell. “I think we’ve got better with age as performers and singers [so] I hope we continue.”
In the meantime, however, the Spice Girls are hoping Viva Forever, which has sold over £3 million worth of advance tickets in London, will eventually appear on Broadway.
“We’d love that,” said Brown. “I’ve done Broadway so I know those shows there are first class, and I think of Viva Forever being first class too. It’s been discussed and fingers crossed that does come to fruition.”