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Viva Forever!, Piccadilly Theatre, London

Titles can be a mistake and it is possible this musical, cobbled together by producer Judy Craymer to repeat the success of Mamma Mia!, will not live up to its name and live forever – certainly judging by the audience response the night I went.

Girl power was out in force but failing to have the good time it so desperately wanted to have and which the show – book by Jennifer Saunders, songs from the Spice Girls' back catalogue – was manifestly designed to provide.

The sets are dreary; the songs have not worn terribly well; and the direction is clichéd. But the real problem is the book. The show does not glorify Posh, Ginger, Baby, Scary and Sporty; instead Saunders has devised a plot in which four wannabe members of a girl group get an audition on Starmaker, a TV show not a million miles from something dreamt up by Simon Cowell. The nasty judge, Simone (Sally Dexter, sending up Sharon Osbourne mercilessly) gets landed with them and ditches three of the girls to concentrate on Viva (the very pretty Hannah John-Kamen).

Sending up a TV programme with the same target audience as your own show is very risky. Saunders has coined some good jokes, but her plotting is turgid. It takes ages in Act Two to resolve the various story strands, so by the time the inevitable closing dance by the entire cast occurs, the audience is heading for the exits, not prancing in the aisles. It is competent, carefully commercially-calculated stuff, but there is no adrenaline rush – and the Spice Girls certainly provided that.

HH

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