Sunday, 16 December 2012

Viva Forever the musical: A fan's view and why the critics were wrong

pic from
On Tuesday this week, the long-awaited musical written by Jennifer Saunders and based around the songs of the Spice Girls, Viva Forever, opened in London's West End. Despite an all-star turn-out with appearances by all five of the original Spices (in some highly questionable outifts, but that's by the by) on opening night, Viva Forever was absolutely panned by the critics. The Daily Telegraph gave it one star, and Christopher Hart of the Sunday Times said the musical is "Three hours of tedious cliché, amateur dramatics and endless yowling". Ouch.

However, I was fortunate enough to go and see the show myself last night, and feel the need to explain why the critics were wrong.

For starters, Christopher Hart (and probably the majority of the critics) is a middle-aged man - hardly the target demographic of the show, am I right? Viva Forever is a show predominantly aimed at young women who were fans of the Spice Girls way back when, and I think the critics need to bear that in mind when they write their reviews.

What's more, the stuffy theatre critics probably love their high-brow culture, so naturally weren't going to get any of the hilarious popular-culture references that had us in fits on Saturday night. The story of Viva Forever is set around a reality TV show, and we had judges making clear caricatures of Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne, another one who claimed a performer had "spunk" (Nicole Scherzinger on this year's X Factor, anyone?), and a host who was clearly the love child of Dermot O'Leary and Ant & Dec (I realise that's three people, but you get my drift), who even did Dermot's signature pointy twist to open the show. There was TOWIE speak, Twitter hashtag jokes and fit topless men. Obviously, the show was never going to be your standard theatre critic's cup of tea.

And the thing is, I highly doubt the atmosphere in the theatre on opening night was anything like it was yesterday, when it was full of Spice Girls fans. It was almost like a panto really, and the show lent itself very well to that. We were singing along, doing the dances, whooping, and even calling back to the performers. And because we were having so much fun, the actors will have undoubtedly lifted their energy and performances as a result. I think my favourite moment of the whole show was in Two Become One when two of the performers were singing "I need some love like I've never needed love before", and pretty much the whole audience sang back "Wanna make love to ya, baby". It was brilliant. I highly doubt that happened on opening night.

Sure, Viva Forever isn't the best musical I've ever seen, but by no means is it the worst. I feel like it needed some more hit songs earlier on, and the storyline isn't the strongest, but it's a lot better than the critics have made it out to be.

I highly hope that it's one of those shows which - just like with a lot of films - proves the critics wrong and does really well with the public. We don't always want to come away from a performance questioning the meaning of life and feeling depressed, sometimes we just want to leave singing the Spice Girls and with huge grins on our faces. And after seeing Viva Forever, we all did.

Viva Forever is on at the Piccadilly Theatre in London.


  1. We Will Rock You has always been panned by the critics. Loved by audiences, it has run for many years in the West End plus touring & playing in many countries worldwide. Critics are paid to criticise, they don't really have a clue!

    1. Good example. I guess we'll just have to see what happens with Viva Forever!


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