Updated Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 07:31 AM
LONDON — 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.”
The Independent newspaper’s Paul Taylor gave the show two stars out of five, calling it “lacking in any truly original or challenging spark.”
A celebrity-studded audience that included soccer star David Beckham — there with wife Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham — 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 “Absolutely Fabulous” 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 megasuccessful ABBA musical “Mamma Mia!”
“It’s not their story. It’s a story of now.”
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 catalog 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.
The show’s success or failure may depend less on critics than on how well the Spice Girls are still loved a decade and a half after their heyday. The five-member group, known for its brash attitude and “Cool Britannia” branding, shot to fame in 1996 and sold 75 million records around the world.
The five members appeared on stage together for the first time in five years at the London Olympics closing ceremony in August and have reunited to promote “Viva Forever!”
Joel Ryan / Invision/AP
The Spice Girls reunited at premiere of “Viva Forever!”