Comedy legend Jennifer Saunders, best known for her collaborations with long-term comedy partner Dawn French, has been signed up by Mamma Mia! producer Judy Craymer to write the book for the Spice Girls musical Viva Forever, which, as previously reported, is expected to premiere in the West End in 2012.

In a statement confirming the appointment, Craymer said: "Having Jennifer Saunders on board is the best possible start Viva Forever can have. We are creating a new contemporary story about friendship, celebrity and fame with the music of the Spice Girls. Jennifer is brilliant at writing about these themes and the Spice Girls' songs connect powerfully in a smart and moving way."

Saunders, who had a cameo in the Spice Girls’ 1997 film Spiceworld, commented: "I'm thrilled and terrified at the same time. It is very exciting to be writing a musical that encompasses the music and energy of the biggest girl-band of all time. My daughters grew up with the Spice Girls; I had to write the book for them as well as myself. It has been great fun so far."

Spice Girls' manager Simon Fuller added: "The girls and I are really happy that Jennifer is writing the book. She has really identified and incorporated what the Spice Girls represent to women around the world."

Saunders began her career in the early Eighties as a member of The Comic Strip, after graduating from the Central School of Speech and Drama. Along with her comedy partner Dawn French, she wrote and starred in the eponymous TV sketch show French and Saunders as well as numerous stage spin-offs, including the pair’s swansong Still Alive!, which had a run at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2008. Saunders is also well known for writing and playing the lead role of Edina Monsoon in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.

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.”

According to today’s Daily Mail, Viva Forever will be a show-within-a-show that “will shine a spotlight on the tawdry side of search-for-a-star TV” programmes. Although no dates or theatre have been confirmed, the newspaper’s Baz Bamigboye suggests it may eventually find a home at the 1600-seat Prince Edward Theatre, where Jersey Boys, the multi award-winningmusical about original boy-band, the Four Seasons, is “still packing them in” and currently booking until 10 April 2011.


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.

No other creatives or cast have yet been announced for Viva Forever.