Saturday, 15 December 2012

Viva Forever! - review

Written by: Peeny (@AdamPeeny)

Where's Peen been?
Piccadilly Theatre, London
Was Peen keen?

One of the most eagerly anticipated musicals of the year arrives with quite an anti-climactic bang. Attempting to remind us of the girl band extravaganza known as the Spice Girls, this is a musical based on their back catalogue that wasn’t quite known for the skillful song-writing or world-class performances, but rather what they stand for and represent. Viva Forever! is somewhat similar in that respect and is a great way to spice up your evening, but not quite your life.

The brains behind it belong to producer Judy Craymer, who also brought us the smash-hit musical Mamma Mia, so expectations were understandably quite high. Written by Jennifer Saunders, we were bound to spend some time giggling too; what they set out to achieve isn’t quite achieved, but I don’t doubt that audiences will continue to flock in and if the girl band’s multi-billion, cross-generation fan base is anything to go by then it won’t be leaving town in a rush.
            We follow a girl group that’s progressing through a talent contest, Star Maker, until they are offered an ultimatum by Sharon Osborne-type judge, Simone (Sally Dexter): only one of the girls can progress further in the competition. Once we come round to the fact that there are actually worse things in life, we follow Viva, ‘the chosen one’ on her rise to stardom. With interspersed relationship issues and awkward silences, there are some heart wrenching moments surrounding the demise of strangely loveable Simone, and Lauren (Sally Ann Triplett) who adopted Viva at a young age. Hatty Preston brings to life the most comic figure in Minty and relates entirely with the hashtag-younger-generation.

Viva Forever dives straight in to the deep end with production elements of a high quantity and quality, and is amongst the most large-scale productions in the West End. With TV screens lining the stage, a revolving stage and various settings that slide in and out of view with ease, there’s ample reason to feel wowed.  

But this was never going to be a groundbreaking performance; the storyline reeks of cliché and some of the acting is questionable. Lest we forget how over-dramatic a substantial proportion of it is, too. But the singing is on point, and by the end you will be (perhaps begrudgingly so) clapping, singing and dancing along with the cast in the encore that, regrettably, is a bit too dissimilar from the rest of the production. Had it all been as vibrant and in-yer-face as the encore, this would have been a completely different and arguably better production. Crammed with stereotypes and based on its foundations, patriotism, it doesn’t leave you disappointed, just feeling quite nonchalant. 

This production is currently booking until 1 June 2013. 
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