6 months ago, on a whim, I agreed to join a few Kiwis down in London for the new musical based on songs by the Spice Girls, Viva Forever. Written by Jennifer Saunders, it was bound to be entertaining.
It took me a while to get my tickets booked to fly down, but I finally organised them mid-November, and headed down on Saturday. I spent the afternoon shopping and wandering London, with all of its Christmas lights, including many trips to Boots after I realised I’d lost my bag of toiletries – including expensive MAC and Lancome lipsticks – at the airport.
At 5:30pm, we met up for drinks at Grace Bar in Piccadilly before heading to the theatre, and the kind people next to us agreed to swap so that I could sit with the group (after buying my ticket separately and being a few seats over from the rest of them!).
I should preface this next section by saying that back at the height of Spice Girls mania in the 90s? I was obsessed. I had the dolls, the polaroid camera, the sticker book, the movie, the t-shirts, you name it. But, despite my bias, I am not a huge fan of these types of musicals, and was just really expected it to be a bit of fun.
But the show? well, wow. I am a bit of a musical theatre geek, having seen hundreds in my life (and performing in many!), and I know a thing or two about “jukebox musicals” (especially having just done one in the Fringe!). Mamma Mia! may be fun and all, but it’s not really my thing to see. We Will Rock You is probably the closest I’ve seen to a decent jukebox musical, in terms of storyline and creativity in how they select and tailor the songs.
However. Viva Forever is well-written (Jennifer Saunders, I bow down to thee), cleverly satirical about the joys of fame, and uses the back catalogue of the group in a very inventive and entertaining way. Its characters are believable and real, without a single piece of cringeworthy or unnatural dialogue (which is tough to say about any show, really!). And the cast were just fabulous: Sally Ann Triplett (also known for Mamma Mia! and Eurovision) in particular was incredible. The story is very funny yet moving and poignant at times, and takes some of the less-familiar Spice Girls hits to new heights.
The audience sang and danced in their seats as the show progressed, and to our delight, ended up being the only singers on the echo section of the chorus of 2 Become 1 (“…wanna make love to ya, baby…”) which spurred on even more and louder singing and a comic, deliberate emphasis on “…get it on, get it on!” – I think even the cast were laughing a little on stage.
At the end of the show, I was thinking to myself how amazing it would be (and so so appropriate for the audience’s enjoyment) if the encore involved some repeated songs the audience could really sing and dance to. And they delivered! After curtain calls, we rose to a standing ovation, cheering and clapping and whooping, and stayed on our feet to dance to hits like Stop, Wannabe and Spice Up Your Life. Fantastic.
So Londoners? go. Go see it. GO! If you loathe the Spice Girls, then fair enough, but if you want a good time laughing, dancing and singing along to a great musical, it’s well worth a night out.
Then on Sunday I wandered the Southbank Christmas markets and walked along the Thames on my way back to Victoria to get my train to Gatwick. It was a stunning day and rounded off a great (if not expensive!) weekend in London.
Now I just need to get the Spice Girls out of my head!…xxx