Viva Forever! Woman power for wannabes
Their debut single Wannabe hit number one in 31 countries and they went on to sell an incredible 75 million albums in just a couple of years. And today, the Spice Girls reunited to launch a new musical based on their songs.
Viva Forever! will be set against the backdrop of the celebrity culture the girls helped to create – and more specifically within the world of the TV talent show.
It’s a world the Spice Girls wanted to explore because, like them, they feel it’s been a phenomenon of pop culture. But the talent show context also allows the girls to explore the theme of instant fame and its impact on ordinary people and their relationships with friends and family – something they themselves have all experienced.
Viva Forever! might be based on Spice Girls’ songs but the girls themselves won’t be appearing. Instead, songs like Say You’ll Be There, 2 Become 1 and Spice Up Your Life will form the spine of a new fictional story written by comedian Jennifer Saunders, who’s known the girls since she appeared in the Comic Relief video for their song Who Do You Think You Are? The show’s produced by Judy Craymer, the woman behind Mamma Mia!
Whatever you think of the Spice Girls’ musical talents, it’s undeniable that together they captured a moment in the popular consciousness and, for many of us, helped define the late-90s. Perhaps most memorably, they preached a message of Girl Power, casting themselves as crusaders for female self-reliance, assertiveness and individualism – values which unsurprisingly are set to resurface in the new musical.
As Victoria Beckham told me today: “I think that we always stood for Girl Power and now maybe it’s woman power. We’re also going to be introducing a whole new generation of women to Girl Power. What we all do individually is empowering women as well – it’s what we all feel very passionately about and it’s what we all do individually in completely different ways.”
But did the Girl Power message really change anything? Hardly a month goes by when we aren’t told about the continuing pay gap between male and female workers – and the lack of women in the boardrooms of top companies.
According to Judy Craymer and Jennifer Saunders, the Spice Girls’ main achievement was to increase the confidence of their female fans. “I don’t know if it actually changed anything,” Saunders told me, “But I think it was quite reinforcing and it was very important for my young teenage daughters growing up – feeling that you didn’t have to worry about what type of girl you were, you didn’t always have to behave. I think they made growing up a lot of fun for a lot of girls.”
The Spice Girls are hoping their now grown-up fans continue to have a lot of fun when they come to see Viva Forever! once it opens at the Piccadilly Theatre in London’s West End in December. Of course, the ultimate hope is to emulate the success of Mamma Mia! – the first so-called ‘jukebox musical’ of the new era. Since it opened in London in 1999, the show has taken more than $2bn at the global box office, not including the more than $600m made by the film version.
If Viva Forever! is half as successful, it’ll allow the Spice Girls to conquer the world – for a second time
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