Theatre Review: Viva Forever - Piccadilly Theatre, London ✭✭

Viva Forever
Piccadilly Theatre

Review by Emma Curry

As musicals go, I couldn’t have been more excited about this one. As a fan of Jennifer Saunders’ comedy writing, as well as being of an age to have experienced ‘girl power’ first hand in the late 1990s, my hopes were high for Viva Forever, the new musical based on the songs of the Spice Girls. 
Unfortunately, at the end of the night I found myself a little disappointed at what was a rather pedestrian production that failed to capitalise upon the potential in its songs and plot.

The story is a satire of X-Factor, get-famous-quick culture. Viva is the name of the lead female character, a young singer who alongside her friends enters a TV talent show (complete with Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne-style caricature judges). She is persuaded to ditch her bandmates and become a solo singer, but over the course of the story comes to realise that her newfound fame and fortune have come at the expense of her friendships and family.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the musical (as in other jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia) was spotting how the songs would be fitted into the action, and often the links were hilariously tenuous. Surprisingly though, there was a fairly heavy emphasis on album tracks, and I have to confess I didn’t even recognise some of the songs. Naturally, a musical also makes much of each song’s lyrics, and unfortunately this highlighted the rather embarrassingly basic nature of words that are usually lost in loud backing tracks and flashy videos. The best moments were those that comically riffed on the potential simplicity of the rhyming couplets: for example, ‘2 become 1’ became the setting for an amusingly awkward sexual encounter between two of the older characters, whilst ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ was an angry rant between the ‘Simon Cowell’ and ‘Sharon Osbourne’ judges.

There were some excellent vocal performances from Hannah John-Kamen as Viva and Sally Ann Triplett as her ballsy, feminist mother, and the closing full-cast performance of ‘Spice Up Your Life’ was really energetic and visually spectacular. If it could have been like this all the way through the whole thing would have been great, but unfortunately up until that point it was rather patchy, with too much emphasis on the X-Factor spoof and not enough on the actual characters (at one point the plot took a random detour to Spain, seemingly for no reason other than to put some palm trees on the stage). 

If you’re a die-hard Spice Girls fan, go along to enjoy the songs, but you might be better off watching your old Spice World video instead.

2 stars ✭✭

Listings Info
Piccadilly Theatre, Denman Street, London W1D 7DY

Booking period 27 November 2012 - 01 June 2013
Book tickets HERE

£52.50, £35.00, £20.00 – all performances until 10 December 2012
£67.50,  £45.00, £20.00 – all performances from 11 December 2012
Parties of 6+ £57.50
Great rates for groups of 10+ and 40+

Performance times
Monday - Thursday at 7.30pm
Friday at 5.00pm and 8.30pm
Saturday at 3.00pm and 7.30pm

For further information please visit