Stop Right Now
Unfortunately Viva Forever, the new Spice Girls jukebox musical on the West End, announced today that it would close after just 6 months. So what can we learn from the mistakes of this production?
Jukebox musicals are an interesting phenomenon. They don’t provide any new musical material, the storyline is usually highly geared towards bringing in the next song rather than advancing the plot and the promoters rely heavily on the nostalgia of the music. Let’s compare a couple of jukebox musicals and see what Spice Girls could have done differently.
Jukebox musicals have become very important in drawing new audiences into Broadway and when done well they tend to last for many years. Look at the likes of Mamma Mia! The Musical, Jersey Boys and Rock of Ages. These musicals are critical successes wherever they play with Jersey Boys finishing its second tour of Australia in less than a decade.
However, Viva Forever is just the latest casualty in a long line of jukebox flops. A quick Google search of jukebox musicals pulls up lists of shows that I have never heard of and are never talked about in the musical community. So surely there is some secret to these successes.
Unfortunately I am here to bring you the news that there really isn’t one theme which ties together all the successful shows and shuns all the unsuccessful shows.
If you believe that it was the shoddy storyline that killed Viva Forever that was written purely to lead into the next song, then think again because Mamma Mia has the tackiest storyline out there. I mean inviting all three possible fatherly candidates to your wedding . . . .
If you want to blame the lack of nostalgia as the Spice Girls were still alive and high-kicking on stage at the Olympics unlike the Jersey Boys crew, check out the Green Day musical American Idiot which ran for over a year on Broadway and has spawned several tours.
Doubting the size of the Spice Girls’ fan base compared to those of ABBA? Fela! The Musical ran for significant time on Broadway as well as the West End and already spawned a limited revival back on Broadway for a couple of months. And the musical was based on the music of Nigerian singer Fela Kuti . . . sorry, who?
I can go on, looking at where the musical started, whether it had any stars in the cast, the number of critical reviews it received on opening or even the ridiculous name of the lead character (She is called Viva in Viva Forever), but they all have successful and unsuccessful musicals!
So all I can leave you with is that if you want to produce a jukebox musical you may as well give it a go. Who knows, you could make the next Mamma Mia or you could disappear from memory like the Beach Boys musical Good Vibrations.
But market the hell out of it so you get all the fans of the old music and hopefully bring some new people to the theatre!