- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 12, 2012

LONDON (AP) - The critics have spoken _ “Viva Forever” did not spice up their lives.

British reviewers were scathing Wednesday about the big-budget stage show built around the songs of 1990s “Girl Power” pop group the Spice Girls.

“I’ll tell you what I wanted, what I really, really wanted _ I wanted this terrible show to stop,” said Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph, riffing on the group’s biggest hit, “Wannabe.”

“This musical is tawdry, lazy and unedifying,” he said, awarding the show one star.

The Independent newspaper’s Paul Taylor gave the show two stars out of five, calling it “lacking in any truly original or challenging spark,” while the Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts dubbed it “a prize Christmas turkey.”

A celebrity-studded audience that included soccer star David Beckham _ there with wife Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham and sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz _ gave the show an opening-night standing ovation Tuesday at London’s Piccadilly Theatre.

And the band members themselves were enthusiastic as they took the stage for a curtain call.

“It was … great,” said Melanie Brown, also known as brassy band member Scary Spice. She inserted an emphatic expletive before “great.”

The show, written by comedian Jennifer Saunders, takes the Girl Power theme that made the band a pop sensation and updates it to a world of Twitter and TV talent shows. It follows four teenage friends whose bond is tested when they enter a reality show, and only one _ the titular Viva _ is chosen to advance.

“It’s not a tribute show,” said producer Judy Craymer, who was also behind the mega-successful ABBA musical “Mamma Mia!”

“It’s not their story. It’s a story of now.”

Refreshing as it is to see a musical built around female friendship and mother-daughter bonds, some audience members might have reflected that the real-life story of the Spice Girls _ their rise from obscurity to global fame, subsequent fallout and varied solo careers _ is richer and more interesting than the show’s feel-good plot.

Critics had praise for the show’s cast, which includes stage veterans Sally Ann Triplett as Viva’s houseboat-dwelling mother and Sally Dexter as an icy talent-show judge.

But some felt that aside from a few hits _ “Wannabe,” “Stop,” “Who Do You Think You Are?” _ the band’s catalogue was not strong enough to support a two-and-a-half hour show.

The show also exposes the banality of the Spice Girls’ lyrics. The songs of ABBA, which power “Mamma Mia!” are positively Shakespearean by comparison.

Story Continues →