Viva Forever will mark the West End musical debut for Marianne Elliott, whose best known for her critically acclaimed National Theatre productions of plays including Pillars of the Community, Therese Raquin, Saint Joan, Harper Regan, Women Beware Women, Season’s Greetings and the multi award-winning War Horse, now running at the West End’s New London Theatre and just opened on Broadway.
The daughter of Manchester Royal Exchange founding artistic director, the late Michael Elliott, Marianne Elliott resisted the lure of the ‘family business’ until her late 20s, when she started the fringe theatre company, Small Talk, with friends. Prior to joining the National in 2006, she had stints as an associate director at the Royal Exchange and the Royal Court, and has also directed at the Open Air, Donmar Warehouse, Royal Shakespeare Company and elsewhere.
Judy Craymer said in a statement: "I am delighted that Marianne has agreed to direct Viva Forever. With her theatrical aptitude for exploring strong women and their relationships and her meticulousness to detail, she is absolutely the right person to direct this new musical which is all about female friendship, celebrity and fame. I’m so happy to have her on board, together with Jennifer Saunders, who has written the musical."
Simon Fuller, the Spice Girls' manager, added: "The girls and I are delighted that one of the most brilliant female theatre directors, Marianne Elliott, is to direct Viva Forever. Judy, Jennifer and now Marianne, make an eminent team.”
Viva Forever is produced by Judy Craymer in association with Universal Music, Simon Fuller and the Spice Girls. As with Mamma Mia!, in which the songs of Abba are fashioned around an original story by Catherine Johnson, Viva Forever “is not a tribute show, but it will harness the distinct personality of the Spice Girls to create a musical that celebrates the energy and excitement of the biggest girl-band of all time.”
From 1994 to 2001, the five-strong Spice Girls - Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown and Melanie Chisholm, aka Posh, Baby, Ginger, Scary and Sporty Spice respectively - were one of the biggest bands in the world, selling 75 million records worldwide and regularly topping the charts with hit singles like "Wannabe", "Say You'll Be There", "2 Become 1", "Who Do You Think You Are", "Too Much", "Stop", "Spice Up Your Life" and "Viva Forever".
Culturally, the Spice Girls spearheaded the “Girl Power” culture of the Nineties and played a big part in the image of “Cool Britannia” internationally. They also starred, as themselves alongside Saunders and myriad other celebrities, in Spice World. Their various awards as a group included four Brits, three American Music Awards, three MTV Europe Music Awards, three World Music Awards, and one MTV Video Music Award.
After disbanding, all five women went on to forge independent careers in music, television and other branches of entertainment with mixed success. They reformed briefly in 2007 for a reunion tour and album.