The producer behind the Spice Girls' flop musical Viva Forever! is convinced the show can be brought back to life with a little hard work and a few alterations. The West End musical, based around the girl group's hit songs, closed last month (Jun13) after scathing reviews and poor ticket sales brought its brief run to a halt.
However, producer Judy Craymer, who was also the brains behind popular ABBA show Mamma Mia!, insists Viva Forever! can be resurrected after a few changes are made.
She tells Britain's Daily Telegraph, "Oh yes, I'm sure Viva! will rise again at some point. It can be worked on. It was heartbreaking that we had to close it. I wouldn't say there weren't faults with it, but I love the Spice Girls, and, when you are thinking about a subject to write a musical about, I think that the Spice Girls have earned a place on our landscape...
"Audiences had a good time. It wasn't Mamma Mia! but I wasn't trying for it to be Mamma Mia!"
Craymer insists the pop stars were disappointed by the show's lack of success, adding, "They understand the ups and downs of showbusiness, but then they have had a lot of knocks themselves and they are still here."
Theatre critics labelled the show "insultingly banal", "tawdry, lazy and unedifying", and "not just bad, but definitively, monumentally and historically bad" after it opened last November (12).
Geri Halliwell has written a touching tribute to the cast and crew of the axed Spice Girls stage show in London as she prepares to bid farewell to the U.K. The British singer was in the West End on Tuesday night (21May13) to watch Viva Forever! for the last time before she relocates to Australia, where she has been hired as a TV talent show judge.
She took to her blog to thank everyone involved for their hard work ahead of the musical's early closure next month (Jun13), and posted a poignant photo of herself standing onstage in the empty Piccadilly Theatre.
She writes, "It's 11pm and I've just come back from the West End theatre show Viva Forever! - to say goodbye... I felt confidant (sic) - almost cocky it was going to be a huge success. Opening night - in my Cinderella prom dress with my fellow Spice Girls, so proud of us having a West End show! It didn't work - 6 months later, it's closing."
But the pop star is adamant she has no regrets about Viva Forever!, adding, "It had a bumpy start but the cast and director worked really hard, made great changes, and I can hand on heart tell it's not s**t! - it's good entertainment! I went back again and again. But honestly for many reasons, I don't regret it.
"So this is to say thank you to all the people who tried for the Spice Girls, who had the guts to put their heart and soul into Viva. Thanks to all the cast of Viva, the musicians, Judy (Craymer, producer), Jennifer (Saunders, writer), the Spices and to all the fans and theatre-goers who came. It's hard to say goodbye, but sometimes we just have to... So as I leave for Australia for new adventure to be a judge on Australia's Got Talent - I hope it will go well; I'm going to really try my best to find a star and have a blast."
Geri Halliwell has voiced her devastation over the early closure of the Spice Girls musical. Viva Forever!, which features the girl band's songs, opened in London's West End in December (12), but theatre bosses have decided to bring the curtain down eight months early due to slow ticket sales.
The show was scheduled to run until February, 2014, but it will now close next month (Jun13), and Halliwell has expressed her disappointment in a post on Twitter.com, writing, "We love u (sic) all Viva Forever, what a shocka (sic), gutted."
A message from the show's producer, Judy Craymer, reads, "It is with a heavy heart that I've had to make this very difficult decision to post closing notice for Viva Forever!... Despite the wonderful audiences, extremely positive feedback and the standing ovation at every performance... we just can't make it work. I am extremely proud of everyone involved in this production. Viva Forever! may be taking it's leave for now in the West End but the legacy of Spice Girls will never fade!"
The Spice Girls musical Viva Forever! opened Tuesday night in London, with both critics and the 90s girl band alike in attendance. Geri "Ginger" Halliwell, Emma "Baby" Bunton, Mel "Sporty" C and Mel "Scary" B posed for photos with fans on the red carpet outside the theater, while Victoria "Posh" Beckham kept everyone waiting after getting stuck in traffic (of course she did).
Told from the point of view of aspiring singer Viva, Viva Forever! parodies TV talent competitions like X Factor while using the Spice Girls' biggest hits to explore the themes of motherhood and friendship. The book was penned by Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders.
While hopes were high — Judy Craymer, the producer behind the megahit Abba musical Mamma Mia!, was in charge — turns out, lightning truly doesn’t strike twice. The critics positively ripped into the show, and some reviews were so bad they’re great. We’ve rounded up the best worst reviews of Viva Forever!
The Telegraph, Charles Spencer: "I'll tell you what I wanted, what I really, really wanted – I wanted this terrible show to stop. If you love the Spice Girls stay at home and listen to their greatest hits."
The Times, Libby Purves: "I'm not sure we really, really wanted this. It wouldn't matter if the songs were good. But most of them aren't. This ain’t Abba, and of the 22 only about four are memorable."
The Independent, Paul Taylor: "[There are] marked deficiencies in Jennifer Saunders’ charmless, messy, lacklustre book. Not only does her script rarely give you that necessary gleeful sense of expectancy about where the songs are going to be shoe-horned in, but it’s embarrassingly derivative of Mamma Mia! and looks way past its sell-by date in its utterly surprise-free satiric swipe at X Factor."
The Guardian, Alexis Petridis: "But the real problem is the songs. For one thing, there aren't enough memorable hits in a career that lasted for three albums to support two hours of theatre. In fairness, the Spice Girls had a handful of decent songs – 'Stop' and 'Say You'll Be There' among them – but elsewhere they're forced to rely on pretty vaporous album tracks such as 'Right Back At Ya' and, at one panic-inducing moment, delve into the solo oeuvre of Geri Halliwell. For another, the lyrics are required to drive the action on, and the lyrics of Spice Girls songs are appalling."
Huffington Post UK, Caroline Frost: "Kind of makes you wonder why the producers didn't just hire a nightclub and make it a Viva Forever!-themed night, instead of all this hand-wringing nonsense about friendship never ending, and being true to yourself."
The Stage, Lisa Martland: "Ultimately there is just too much tackiness surrounding the core story for any of the events to be believable, the best example of which is when there is a quick diversion to Simone’s house in Spain where a bizarre carnival street scene arrives from nowhere. It’s as if someone from the props department found a box of paraphenalia in the theatre basement and thought it would make a great scene."
The Times, Caitlin Moran: “Scrappy, lazy, clichéd and inconclusive. Even the end makes no sense, suggesting no jeopardy, choice or sacrifice.”
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The stage show mogul, who is currently working on the Spice Girls-themed musical Viva Forever!, has handed the money to The Theatres Trust, which has been set up to boost the industry in Britain.
She made the huge donation in a bid to help stage productions thrive, telling the BBC, "Theatres are very precious. This country has the richest heritage of theatre anywhere in the world and I genuinely feel we must protect that glorious history for future theatre-going audiences."
Organisers of the project hand out grants of up to $8,000 (£5,000) to theatre bosses to help pay for refurbishments.
Against all odds a lightweight Broadway musical made up of ABBA songs and an innocuous storyline has become a worldwide phenomenon still running and selling out wherever it plays. Now it has been given the big-screen treatment filmed on location in the Greek Isles. The story basically remains the same (and oddly similar to the 1969 Gina Lollobrigida comedy Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell) about a young girl Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) on the eve of her wedding. She has decided to find out who her real father and so she invites all three of her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) ex-loves to the wedding. With the arrival of Sam (Pierce Brosnan) Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and Harry (Colin Firth) all hell breaks loose as Donna must not only deal with the impending nuptials but also the re-emergence into her life of three very different--and now older former flames. Helping her through the ordeal are her two best friends Rosie (Julie Walters) and the seductive Tanya (Christine Baranski). All this of course is just an excuse to break out into song every five minute with all of the major ABBA hits used to move the story along--or just stop it dead in its tracks. Either way it’s a toe-tapping experience apart from every other film we’ve seen this summer. With a cast not exactly known for their musical skills this version of Mamma Mia is indeed a roll of the dice which has paid great dividends for the most part. With few exceptions (we’ll get to Pierce’s warbling in a moment) the entire cast shines and delivers--beginning with Streep who is simply a force of nature. She’s sensational and can she ever sing! Her big 11-o’clock-number “The Winner Takes It All ” which she belts out against the stunning scenery of Scopelos (where much of the movie was filmed) will remind you of Barbra Streisand’s triumphant anthem “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl. Streep is the real deal--Hollywood’s real hidden singing and dancing queen. You just have to wonder why she hasn’t gotten more musical opportunities in film. Baranski and Walters are delightful sidekicks and each belt out their own numbers in style. Seyfried (HBO’s Big Love) is a great discovery a charmer who keeps the film grounded and unveils a natural singing voice. As for the guys both Skarsgard and Firth get through their limited vocals with seeming ease and have a great camaraderie as does Brosnan--acting-wise at least. His musical numbers while on key exhibit a voice that probably isn’t going to top the charts anytime soon but you have to give him credit for swinging er singing for the fences. Despite his iffy pipes he and Streep display such great chemistry it would be nice to see them re-team somewhere down the line. It’s not often Hollywood offers a Broadway show’s creative team the chance to repeat their stage success but give credit to Universal for bringing in the original director Phyllida Lloyd writer Catherine Johnson and producer Judy Craymer. Consider the fact that they are all over 50--just like three of their key female stars--and you have a situation in which youth-obsessed Hollywood has reversed course--all for the good. Although Mamma Mia is not shot with the kind of razzamatazz style a Rob Marshall (Chicago) might have brought Lloyd’s feature film debut hits the mark with zeal enthusiasm and the gift of fun. It’s a good-time movie with a refreshing lack of pretense and makes it one of the most purely entertaining musical events ever to hit a motion picture screen. Lloyd has re-captured on film the unabashed joy of the theatrical experience and staged it in one of the most beautiful places on earth. If it’s a little disconcerting to see all these older stars belting out a Swedish pop group’s greatest hits it’s also probably just what audiences living in these troubled times need. Our guess is you’ll want to line up and see it again the minute it ends.
Academy Award winner Meryl Streep is putting her vocal talents to the test in the Hollywood adaptation of ABBA musical Mamma Mia.
The Devil Wears Prada star, 57, is set to play Donna, whose daughter Sophie is due to be married when she embarks on a journey to discover the identity of her father. It will be Streep's first musical.
The film's producer, Judy Craymer, says, "(Streep) was always at the top of our wish list.
"She encapsulates the spirit and energy and has the powerhouse qualities that character requires."
The movie features ABBA songwriters Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson as executive producers, while the picture will be produced by Tom Hanks' production company, Playtone.
Mamma Mia will begin shooting later this year in London and Greece, and reports suggest the film's release will coincide with the musical's 10th anniversary in 2009.
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