By David Ng
9:45 AM EST, December 17, 2012
Theater critics will tell you what they hate. What they really, really hate. In London, it's a new stage musical called "Viva Forever!" that uses songs from the British pop group Spice Girls. With a book written by Jennifer Saunders, of "Ab Fab" fame, the musical is backed by Judy Craymer, the producer who brought us another pop-jukebox musical, the blockbuster "Mamma Mia!"
"Viva Forever!" opened over the weekend at the Picadilly Theatre on London's West End. The musical doesn't feature any of the original members of the Spice Girls, though the five singers -- including Victoria Beckham -- appeared at a curtain call on opening night. Instead, the show sets up a fictional character named Viva, who is part of an all-girl band, and follows her music career and her relationship with her adoptive mother.
The musical has elicited creative pans from British theater critics.
"There is very little to recommend this show," wrote Miranda Sawyer of the Guardian. "The songs are murdered, either by the set-up -- a discussion about middle-aged pubic hair leads, astonishingly, into 'Too Much' -- or the arrangement."
David Benedict of Variety reported that "the hugely partisan opening night crowd was hard pressed to work up more than a few laughs." Saunders' writing is lazy and overly familiar, he wrote, but the biggest problem "is that the Spice Girls songs, however bouncy and fun, don't offer up dramatic potential. In terms of lyrics, they're mostly slogans, ceaselessly repeated."
The Independent's Kate Basset speculated that the show might be a "vision of dumbed-down British culture feeding on itself with an inane, vampiric grin." The script by Saunders is "jawdroppingly witless." At the curtain call, "Beckham looked miserably embarrassed while the rest obligingly whooped," she wrote.
The deluge of bad reviews inspired one columnist for the Daily Mail to write: "Good for the Spice Girls. They may just have performed their greatest service. For women, for men, for the whole of humanity, in fact. They've killed the jukebox musical."
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