Viva Forever! Geri Halliwell takes us behind the scenes
It took Judy Craymer ten years to get Mamma Mia! off the ground. And not only did she have to put up with people telling her a musical based around the songs of Abba wouldn’t work, but once it opened in London’s West End most of the reviews were sneering.
Now, nearly fourteen years on, Mamma Mia! has taken over $2bn at the global box office, spawned a massive hit film and ignited a wave of copycat “jukebox musicals” showcasing the music of acts such as Madness, Rod Stewart and Queen.
(View the full interview with Geri Halliwell below)
Opening next Tuesday at the Piccadilly Theatre is Viva Forever! – a jukebox musical based around the songs of 90’s pop phenomenon The Spice Girls. Significantly, it’s the first show Judy Craymer has made since Mamma Mia! So the stakes are high – and the eyes of the whole world will be watching when all five Spices travel from around the world to attend the opening night.
No doubt certain critics will sneer. I’ve already heard people deriding the Spice Girls’ lack of musical talent. Did they really write their own songs? How many of them could actually sing? And surely they only had a handful of hits – not enough for a whole musical?
But for me, all of these criticisms miss the point. Pop culture is about so much more than virtuosity – it’s about magic. It’s about encapsulating a moment in time and somehow reflecting back at people their hopes, dreams and emotions. The best pop acts embody an energy and spirit which can enthuse and excite millions of people around the world – which is exactly what the Spice Girls did in the late 90s. And what Mamma Mia! has been doing ever since.
So if anyone can create a musical that captures the essence of the Spice Girls, it’s Judy Craymer. And, with the help of writer Jennifer Saunders and director Paul Garrington, I’m sure she’ll pull it off.
But when Viva Forever! opens next week I really hope the critics leave their cultural snobbery at the door. I certainly will.
And if you’re as excited as I am, check out what happened when Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell invited me along to last-minute rehearsals this week…
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