13/12/2012 12:31 GMT | Updated 11/02/2013 05:12 GMT

Forget the Critics: If You Loved the Spice Girls, You'll at Least Like Viva Forever!


This is a piece of writing about the new Spice Girls' musical, Viva Forever!, which, disregarding all other scope of commentary, requires this observation: at the other night's press night - shock! Horror! - one of the Spices was photographed separately from the others, because she was a whole 20 minutes late to the red carpet. Probably deliberately.

I mean, for pity's sake - yes, Victoria Beckham's a stuck up so-and-so who makes my skin crawl, but simultaneously, that's why I (we?) love her. It doesn't mean she feels anymore hate for her flatmates from umpteen years ago, from her 20s - selfish, noisy, sprawling, overbearing but ultimately loveable though the are - than the rest of us. And did any entertainment writers happen to mention her doing the Posh Spice point-and-pout-pose to the delight of SG many fans waiting outside Piccadilly Theatre in sub zero temperatures before last night's show? I thought not. So... moving swiftly on.

Having worked as a 'critic' of 'theatre' extensively, I know what a tenuous, somewhat ridiculous undertaking it is. Don't get me wrong, I love it - but what do you care what I, or any other so-called critic thinks? Not much, I dame. That's why, when I'm writing a review, I ask myself one question and one question only: is it the show worth the money we're expected to shell out? It's an especially loaded question at present, given pretty much everyone I know is broke right now. In the case of Viva Forever!, I'm really not sure. Yes, it's extortionately overpriced - incomprehensibly, severely, depressingly so - especially given most of the Spice Girls' diehard childhood fans are now mid 20-somethings struggling to forge careers in a dire economy. Then again, you'd be hard pressed finding a decent seat anywhere in the West End for less than £50, realistically.

But where Viva Forever! is concerned - and I'll tread carefully now, given I'm a massive Spice Girls' fan; a person who looks on all they represent with rose-tinted glasses - the musical is absolutely, undoubtedly fine. Good cast. Good story. Good songs. Good show. Amazing? No; and Jennifer Saunders's continued obsession with jokes about women's private parts is partly to blame for that. Worth £50 of your hard-earned cash over the misogynistic and insulting Rock of Ages or even Phantom of the Opera (given you'll risk almost suffocating to death at the London show given the unbearable constriction of the seating)? Absolutely, yes.

The critical-mauling of Saunders' and Judy Craymer's collective brainchild is so painfully inevitable it's almost laughable, in that everything Spice Girls-related, whether it's rooted in the past or present, is going to be colourfully mocked, and for exactly the same reason the musical exists in the first place. What I love about all the negative reviews surrounding Viva Forever! is how well-timed and forcefully and highly promoted they are on whatever tabloid or broadsheet newspaper or website you could name (not discounting Huffington Post UK in this). Put simply, the Spice Girls' guarantees sales and hits. Because, like it or not, however much you might want to slag them off, they're still selling. Even after all these years. We still care. Can the same be said for Aqua, Boyzone, All Saints, Natalie Imbruglia or any other late 90s' icons? No. We could experiment, but really - 'Tinky Winky turns up to Teletubbies reunion 20 minutes late' is highly unlikely to make much a fuss. It's almost like we've collective amnesia. For a time, the whole world including Nelson Mandela loved the Spice Girls. Why are British people so reluctant to admit that?

The truth is, the vast majority of the allegedly professional critics in question wrote their Viva Forever! reviews based on the Girls' admittedly less than extensive back catalogue rather than the hard work of the Viva Forever! team...despite the airing of excellent tracks like 2 Become 1, Who Do You Think You Are? and Spice Up Your Life conjuring memories of pure joy for many of us. (And on a tangent, I wonder if they'd be as derivative of anything One Direction-related in 15 years' time, given they're boys?). Furthermore, I've been to enough of these things to know most of the critics and journalists in question would've broken their necks to attend yesterday's press night to nibble fantastically silly cakes and sip free Champagne while Tweeting pictures of Geri and co., despite their negative reviews having been written in their heads beforehand.

If you've even the slightest inclination to see Viva Forever!, the actually pretty decent musical based on the hits of the Spice Girls (Let Love Lead the Way, album tracks and solo hits aside), do me a favour. In this instance, explore the audience's reviews rather than the critics'. Because really: who cares what all of 30 people among 63 million think? Especially when they include noted sensationalist fool and homophobe Jan Moir? In this case, fuck the critics.