So brace yourselves, this is my first ever theatre/musical review, and its equally fitting as Viva Forever was the first ever musical I have ever seen! And it was great!
The story follows Viva, a 19-year-old girl taking part in talent show as part of a girl group, Eternity, and as she is taken through the rounds and flown around the globe, success comes knocking, however she soon begins to question whether fame is really all its worth. Accompanied by some great characters such as her mother, Lauren and best friend Suzi who provide brilliant laughs in addition to Viva’s mentor on the Saturday Night talent show, Simone, the performances are brilliant and moving.
I’ll be honest, at the beginning I was a bit unsure! I would definitely say of the musical that even though it has some really brilliant scenes and some moments of pure genius (especially in the scene layouts and how the songs began to fit in to the storyline), there were some forced moments and odd silences, especially the ending where I felt it was all wrapped up rather quickly. However these were only small instances, and there were some fantastic performances (most especially from the ‘mature’ characters) and the songs were performed brilliantly with the discography covering ALL three albums and even solo material from Geri and Mel C, so after the first couple of songs I began to really get into it!
A definite highlight of the musical is that it is penned by Jennifer Saunders, and you could definitely recognise this in the humour involved, especially in the mature characters: the mother and her best friend and their red wine addiction in addition to Viva’s mentor, Simone, all seem like they’ve jumped out of an Ab Fab episode (and thats not a bad thing!) They definitely provided the comic relief whereas the younger stars were left to the dramatic stuff, which in some instances really faltered because it seemed a bit strained, this isn’t necessarily a criticism of the actors in question, just that perhaps some of the humour seemed to seep from these scenes and it remained with the mature characters to provide the laughs.
This is the slight flaw of the musical, with the awkward pauses and odd moments, that the musical should be treated as it is, a fun and cheesy romp (theatre attendants were trying to stop audience members from singing??!). Perhaps the hilarity and Ab-fab-ness that makes this musical so camp and funny should expand to the younger characters who are left with a lot of the drama.
However, the stage design was fantastic and there were moments of pure genius, such as the revolving stage which helped provide the canal-boat home of Viva or the stage set-up of the talent show. The concept of the talent show worked really well and they clearly poked fun at talent shows in a very clever way, showing all three talent judges all fighting for the limelight. But it wasn’t saying anything too groundbreaking, it just highlighted what is known about the nature of ‘modern day fame’ and the catiness of behind-the-scenes production.
It was also, brilliantly, filled with Spice Girls references, such as the infamous union jack dress! In addition, the use of the Spice Girls discography worked really well in the story, with songs such as ‘2 Become 1’ and ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ being used fantastically as character dialogue (Getting a great response from the audience in such instances). Like I mentioned previously, I have never seen a musical before but it was mentioned to me that the producer, Judy Cramer, also produced Mama Mia (which makes a lot of sense!) and having seen the film the comparisons go beyond just songs being used as part of a storyline, but also the use of the comedic ‘mature’ characters in addition to the moments of pure genius in the storytelling!
My only problem with the theatre in which we saw the musical was the theatre staff who discouraged people from singing along! I was so shocked, I was told by my friend that in Mama Mia singing along was encouraged (and musicals are, as I was led to believe, meant to be fun and laid-back events). As mentioned previously 2 Become 1 was a fantastic scene in which two characters use the song to talk about them possibly getting together, and the use of this song’s chorus:
I need some love like I never needed love before
(Wanna make love to ya, baby)
I had a little love, now I’m back for more
(Wanna make love to ya, baby)
Meant that the words in brackets were not mentioned by the cast, which we believed to be a clear indication for the audience to join in!! But no, we were discouraged from singing and stuck instead to just doing the dance moves (silently) to STOP instead… Another interesting part of our viewing experience (which has nothing to do with the musical itself) is that the first 15 minutes of the musical we were sat on the same row as a VERY drunk man who was voicing his opinions about the musical very loudly before he finally walked out declaring that he didn’t like it! But apart from that it was fantastic, and for my first musical experience was definitely one to remember!
Overall, the musical was fab (even a little bit Ab-Fab, hahahahahaha), and worked really well as a camp, fun romp which everyone could enjoy (but not sing along to apparently!). The performances were all brilliant, and what instances there were of humour were brilliant and clearly appreciated by the audience! It may have had some forced and awkward moments however as a whole it really succeeded in creating such a new musical out of Spice Girls music, highlighted at the end when we were encouraged to a Spice Girls dance along.
Also, here is a video featured on the Viva Forever video which shows the cast of the musical talking about their roles! (I am very naive and was quite shocked at how different they look to their characters, they’re brilliant all the same though..)