Popular music and theatre combined today as the legendary girl band Spice Girls reunited to announce details of the forthcoming musical featuring their hugely popular songs, Viva Forever!, which will open at the Piccadilly theatre this Christmas.
Producer Judy Craymer, who is best known for her hit show Mamma Mia!, told attendees at the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel today that the Jennifer Saunders-penned musical will feature a new original story taking inspiration from themes in Spice Girls songs and will open on 11 December, following previews on 27 November.
While which of the group’s many hit songs to be included in the musical is yet to be confirmed, Viva Forever! will be directed by Mamma Mia! Resident Director Paul Garrington and tell the story of one girl following her dreams of becoming a pop star.
Following success on a reality TV show, Viva must decide whether to take the chance of finding solo fame or staying with her fellow band members and friends. Charting her journey into the world of overnight celebrity, Viva Forever! is a story of loyalty, family and friendship.
Craymer, who was first approached by the group and their manager Simon Fuller about the idea of creating a new musical, explained the project’s appeal today, saying: “I loved their songs but I also love the Spice Girls and what they did for women’s confidence, the fact that there’s something in the dynamic of friendship and family, and that their mums were very much around and were very much their best friends.” Talking about how comedian Saunders came to write the book, Craymer joked, “Jennifer Saunders burst into my office one day and said ‘I have to write this musical or my daughters are going to kill me’ and that was it. We didn’t really talk much more, but we did listen for about nine months non-stop to the Spice Girls, we wore out our iPods, we drank and ate our way around the West End, and then Jen started writing and she came up with a very heart-warming family tale.”
Saunders, who has appeared with the Spice Girls in a number of sketches for French And Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous since the group found fame in the mid-1990s, told the crowd that she was a huge fan of the pop stars, saying: “I just remember the joy that they brought and their energy and positivity, and I wanted to bring that to a modern story. Having had almost two years listening to the songs, I like them better now, they just grow on you. Narratively we found a really nice story within these songs which also reflects the energy of the Spice Girls.”
The energy of the Spice Girls was on full display today, with the singers returning to the venue where they filmed the video for their first single Wannabee in 1996 before they went on to sell more than 75 million albums worldwide. Standing on stage together for the first time in four years, Geri Halliwell looked back to their debut single, telling the attendees: “16 years ago I couldn’t have imagined when we were writing the lyric ‘Zigazigha’ that it would end up in a West End show, but it’s absolutely amazing, we’re thrilled to be working with these amazing women.”
Emma Bunton echoed her sentiments, saying: “To be working with an amazing producer who was on the top of our wish list right from the start has just been incredible. And as for the lovely Jennifer, who probably knows us better than most people, she’s incredible and we just feel very lucky to have them both.”
Victoria Beckham assured fans that Viva Forever! would continue on the girl power message the band became famous for, saying: “What we do individually is really empower women and collectively I’m hoping there’s going to be a lot more people who are going to come on-board and we’re just so excited about the whole thing.”
The only member to have worked in the West End before, Blood Brothers star Melanie Chisholm told the crowd it felt “surreal”, but that “we’ve seen a lot of good workshops of the show and it’s better than we ever could have hoped for. To have our songs being performed night after night in the theatre is an honour for us. We just feel incredibly lucky.”
Viva Forever! will be choreographed by Lynne Page, whose work includes La Cage Aux Folles at the Menier Chocolate Factory, in the West End and on Broadway, and The Cherry Orchard at the National Theatre. Sound and lighting designers Bobby Aitken and Howard Harrison will reunite following their work together on Mamma Mia!, and Olivier Award-winner Peter McKintosh will create designs for the show.
Viva Forever! will follow Ghost The Musical into the Piccadilly theatre, with the five-time Olivier Award nominated production closing on 6 October.