Not everyone was ready to ”spice up their lives” at the premiere of Viva Forever! on Tuesday.
The Spice Girls (minus “Posh Spice” Victoria Beckham) seemed ecstatic to reunite in London for the new musical — a tale of four friends whose bond is tested when their band gets a taste of fame on a TV talent show, featuring their hit singles such as “Wannabe” — but the critics weren’t as thrilled.
The Telegraph‘s Charles Spencer responded, “I’ll tell you what I wanted, what I really, really wanted – I wanted this terrible show to stop,” he continued, “Jennifer Saunders’ script is almost insultingly banal as she tells the story of a group of lippy teenagers with more than a passing resemblance to the Spice Girls attempting to achieve fame on an X-Factor-style talent show.”
The Independent‘s Paul Taylor said, “‘The Spice Girls’ songs, with their clever hooks and catchy rhythms, are better at projecting an attitude than fleshing out a dramatic situation and it also indicates marked deficiencies in Jennifer Saunders’ charmless, messy, lacklustre book.”“Not only does her script rarely give you that necessary gleeful sense of expectancy about where the songs are going to be shoe-horned in, but it’s embarrassingly derivative of Mamma Mia! and looks way past its sell-by date in its utterly surprise-free satiric swipe at X Factor,” Taylor claimed.
The Huffington Post‘s Caroline Frost declared, “The only time the show came to life was, in fact, after it finished, with the whole cast prancing around joyfully to a reprise of ‘Spice Up Your Life’, played with the volume up, the requisite arms in the air (including the Spice Girls themselves, of course, in resolute cheer-leader mode), and big, conspiratorial smiles to the audience – you love this, too, right? Which we do”
She added, “And which kind of makes you wonder why the producers didn’t just hire a nightclub and make it a Viva Forever!-themed night, instead of all this hand-wringing nonsense about friendship never ending, and being true to yourself.”
In The Stage‘s review, Lisa Martland noted, “Right from the start, during an overlong first scene which desperately tries to introduce all the characters in one contrived swoop, it is impossible not to make comparisons with its triumphant predecessor,” continuing, “Again the book revolves around a young woman (Viva) on a journey of discovery, of ‘finding herself’ and working out relationships with her mother and close friends. Except that this time there is not a missing father, but an absent birth mother created for some extra dramatic tension.”
The Evening Standard‘s Henry Hitchings furthered, “One of the main reasons for the Spice Girls’ success was their big and contrasting personalities. Those are absent here. What remains is their music: a couple of brilliantly effervescent tunes, a few other catchy numbers, and a lot that even their fans might struggle to hum. When ‘Spice Up Your Life’ is performed, it’s a genuinely buzzy moment. But there aren’t enough really potent songs to make this a compelling jukebox musical. The first half is limp, the second better yet hardly electrifying.
But there may be an ounce of hope for Melanie Brown (Scary Spice), Beckham (Posh), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice), and Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice), as The Guardian‘s Alexis Petridis had some positive feedback for the girl group-inspired feature.
Petridis awarded Viva Forever! three stars, gushing that the cast was “largely great, particularly given that they have caricatures rather than characters to work with”, but says the production’s real problem is the songs. He writes: “In fairness, the Spice Girls had a handful of decent songs – “Stop” and “Say You’ll Be There” among them – but elsewhere they’re forced to rely on pretty vaporous album tracks such as Right Back At Ya and, at one panic-inducing moment, delve into the solo oeuvre of Geri Halliwell. For another, the lyrics are required to drive the action on, and the lyrics of Spice Girls songs are appalling.”
Click through the gallery above to see the Spice Girls’ evolution — starting with a picture of 4/5 members from last night — and watch the video below to learn more about their reunion last night at ‘Viva Forever!’
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