A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!








Viva Forever!


VIVA FOREVER! Viva (Hannah John-Kamen)


Book - Jennifer Saunders

Music - The Spice Girls


Piccadilly Theatre

27 November 2012 – 1 June 2013



A Union Jack front cloth is set, slightly off-kilter, while a bank of TV screens sputters into life. Viva Forever!, inspired by the Spice Girls’back catalogue is a musical for the MTV generation. And it’s going to be fashionable to knock it to smithereens. Yet this is the wrong year to coconut-shy anything with a ‘Made in Britain’ tag, and Viva Forever! is that through and through, in everything from the red white and blue publicity to the mock-up of Geri Halliwell’s signature Union Jack dress. It’s backed by an enclave of British celebrities: fashionista Victoria Beckham, Ambassador for Cool Britannia, Geri Halliwell, Jam & Jerusalem Jennifer Saunders and producer Judy Cramer, responsible for the mega millions phenomena that is ’Mamma Mia!’ - a standing army of aunt sallies…

The premise is simple enough: girl band, Eternity, Luce, Holly, Diamond and Viva, make it through the rounds of a TV talent show, ‘Starseekers.’ Yet only Viva is chosen by show mentor, Simone, to go on. Viva leaves the girls and her adopted mother, Lauren, behind in alternative Camden Town as she walks the line between reality and fakery. The action is set between Lauren’s houseboat, The Unthinkable, among an array of well-meaning misfits, and the high octane world of the TV studio, where Listerine strips serve as food and cut-throat cliches snag every other line, ‘how can I give you edge when you’ve already fallen off the cliff?’



VIVA FOREVER! Eternity - Diamond (Lucy Phelps), Viva (H...iobhan Athwal)

If you want a musical about the Spice Girls, and some audience members clearly did, then Viva Forever! will disappoint. If you’re a fan of the juke box musical you will fare a little better under Martin Koch’s inventive musical arrangements. And if you don’t know the Spice Girls or their songs, and have never been to a juke box musical before, though this might be stretching things a bit, you can sit back and enjoy the ride.

At the heart of Viva Forever! is the mother/daughter relationship between Viva (Hannah John-Kamman looking and sounding like a young Eartha Kitt) and her adopted mother, Lauren (a feisty Sally Ann Triplett) off-set by the bitchy backstage of the TV show– a thinly disguised X Factor. Saunders writes about what she knows; the portrait is scathing. The characters, excepting Angel (Ben Cura) are gargoyles.


VIVA FOREVER! Lauren (Sally Ann Triplett) and Viva (Han...ah John-Kamen)

There’s a Simon Cowell-Johnny, ‘men age, woman rot,’ (a calculating Bill Ward) and the hair-sprayed harpie, Simone, (the dexterous Sally Dexter) who embraces a Cowell and a Sharon Osbourne. While the TV screens show a montage of studio rev counts and clocks, in Paul McIntosh’s witty, efficient design. It is dizzying, brash and so in yer face that you don’t see the dis-joints in its manufactured world.

There is a send-up style and substance throughout, an over-hang from Absolutely Fabulous, and Saunders writes for an ensemble cast, in this instance two of them. The songs are delivered wrap-around narrative, yet one of the most affecting is Viva Forever! played simply on acoustic guitar by Ben Cura. The production’s sharper than its gloss surface indicates. There are slick, enjoyable set pieces: the girls’ informal staging of ‘Headlines’ outside Camden Town, the formality of ‘Stop’ with its Mary Quant black and white geometric costumes and ‘60’s groove, the juxtaposition of ‘Goodbye’/’Mama’/’Headlines’ which closes the first half, and a closing mash up that brings the audience to its feet.


VIVA FOREVER! Spice Up Your Life

The Union Jack dazzles, worn by Lauren and not by one of the girls, and we remember the ‘90’s and the Spice Girls as the face of girl power. They exuded energy, fun and freedom - they endure because of attitude. We are urged ‘always on your own terms’ -.A message from a mother to her daughters…



VIVA FOREVER! Angel (Ben Cura) and Viva (Hannah John-Kamen)

Piccadilly Theatre
Denman Street, London W1D 7DY
Box Office: 0844871 3055
Prices £52, 35, 20 group rates
Monday – Thursday 7.30pm
Friday 5.00pm and 7.30pm
Saturday 3.00pm and 7.30pm

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