Spice Girls to reunite for teary West End musical
21:31 GMT, 31 May 2012
The Spice Girls are ready for their big West End first night. The women behind Girl Power will all be at the world premiere of Viva Forever which, I can reveal, will open at the Piccadilly Theatre in December, well before Christmas.
Ghost The Musical, which is currently running at the Piccadilly, will close in the autumn.
Based on the Oscar-winning movie that starred Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost has some terrific moments but, clearly, not enough of them to draw the kind of audiences that will keep the show running.
Together again: Band members Emma Bunton and Mel C, far left and right, cried when they saw footage of the upcoming show
Producers for both shows could not be contacted for comment last night
Viva Forever, created by Judy Craymer, the powerhouse behind Mamma Mia!, and award-winning funny lady Jennifer Saunders, will feature around 16 numbers associated with the Spice Girls line-up Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton, Victoria Beckham, Melanie Chisholm and Melanie Brown, respectively Ginger, Baby, Posh, Sporty and Scary.
Previews will begin in November. Auditions start later this month and run into July, and Craymer and director Paul Garrington want to begin rehearsals around September.
Workshop versions of the show have already been held, enabling the creative team, which also includes top choreographer Lynne Page, designer Peter Mackintosh and orchestrator Martin Koch, to explore how to stage the show ahead of rehearsals.
Viva Forever will face stiff competition. Another show, The Body-guard, featuring music connected with iconic singer Whitney Houston, will begin performances at the Adelphi Theatre at around the same time.
Both are hot-button productions featuring songs that are already hummable and well known — a boon for box office prospects.
The Spice Girls show has a mother and daughter story at its heart, with a television talent show as a backdrop.
Emma and Mel C cried when they watched footage of the workshops; both felt it reflected the group’s ethos — friendship, identity and being true to yourself — and also saw it as an astute commentary on today’s obsession with celebrity.
Although, as Craymer told me a few months ago ‘the show isn’t about the Spice Girls directly, but it’s sprinkled with their essence’.
Viva Forever will include songs Wannabe, The Lady Is A Vamp, Who Do You Think You Are and Mamma.
Pippa the voice is seen and heard
Pippa Bennett-Warner is a chameleon: an actress blessed with a silky, seductive voice who has played everything from a battered woman (in Ruined, for Indhu Rubasingham) to Cordelia and Queen Isabella (Lear and Richard II, for Michael Grandage).
Tonight, she will get to create a new character in Vivienne Franzmann’s play The Witness, which starts previewing Upstairs at the Royal Court as part of the Jerwood new play-writing programme.
Impressive: Pippa Bennett-Warner
She will play Alex, a 19-year-old studying at Cambridge, who was rescued as a baby from the Rwandan genocide by a photographer (played by Danny Webb), who adopts her and brings her back to London.
The first half is about father and daughter. ‘She has come back from Cambridge and they re-connect after his wife, my adoptive mother, has died,’ Pippa explained, trying not to give too much away about a drama (often very funny) that explores a lie, ethics and morality.
It emerges that something happened involving Webb and another character, played by David Ajala. There was a picture taken in Rwanda, but something has been erased — and Alex discovers the original.
‘I got to the end of the first scene and sent a note to my agent saying : “This is so awesome! I have to do it.” ’
Now, as she gears up for previews and opening night next week, she feels excited and ‘absolutely terrified’.
‘Alex is a teenager — she’s got that swagger, but she’s still a daddy’s girl. She can be fiery, but I think she’s incredibly fragile inside: vulnerable, naive . . . she’s all those things that young girls are, but try to cover and suppress by being sassy and having an attitude,’ Pippa told me.
But Alex has also reached a stage where she wants to learn more about her past. ‘She’s a lost girl who wants her father’s blessing to find out about herself.’
Pippa’s just coming off the brilliant Radio 4 version of The Great Gatsby, in which she played Daisy Buchanan. She told me it was great that an actress of colour was given the part of Daisy. ‘I know you can’t see me — you hear just my voice,’ she said.
But what a voice.
Alicia's in Wonderland as the Queen of Danes
Alicia Vikander arrived just in time. Tables at the Carlton Hotel, which is sited on the Croisette in Cannes, are hard to come by during the film festival and waiters weren’t exactly falling over themselves to let me have one.
But the minute Swedish-born actress Alicia swept in, hair tumbling down her back and out-chic-ing the French, a table was miraculously, available.
Alicia’s is a face just beginning to make its mark on the big screen.
On June 15 she stars in the riveting Danish film A Royal Affair, set in 17th-century Copenhagen, playing Caroline Mathilde, an English princess pushed into an arranged marriage with Danish King Christian VII.
Making her mark: Alicia Vikander
And later in the year she will be seen as Kitty, opposite Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Johnson and Domhnall Gleeson, in Joe Wright’s eagerly awaited screen version of Anna Karenina.
It has been raining and Alicia quickly runs her fingers through her hair and orders a cup of tea; her movements are graceful, a legacy of the nine years spent studying with the Royal Ballet School in Stockholm.
Alicia tells me that Caroline, her character in A Royal Affair, would, in these circumstances, order tea: something that reminded her of the comforts of home.
‘She has to leave her whole family to marry a man she had never met. She had dreams that he would be a Prince Charming — but when she met him, he was insane,’ Alicia explained as we sipped our tea.
Christian, the King, treats Caroline with disdain, and sexually assaults her. He leaves her to go off whoring.
‘When she lived in England, she was able to be a modern woman and was allowed to read and write poetry,’ she tells me. ‘But when she came to Denmark, she wasn’t able to express herself.’
Alicia is ravishing as Caroline and she gives a beautiful performance as a woman forced to discover inner strengths to survive.
She meets a physician, played by Mads Mikkelsen (who deservedly won the best actor prize at Cannes for Thomas Vinterberg’s excellent The Hunt) and soon they begin an affair as Mikkelsen’s character tries to control the King, so well played by Mikkel Folsgaard.
Alicia has also just been playing a witch in the fantasy film Seventh Son.
One of the great things about Wright’s Anna Karenina is that he and screen writer Tom Stoppard have given full rein to the relationship of Kitty and her suitor ‘Kostya’ Levin.
‘Sometimes their story is reduced on television and in films, but Joe restores the importance of Kitty and Levin, which was very exciting,’ said Alicia.
Brad's zombie shoot comes back to life
Brad Pitt’s big zombie movie, World War Z, sounds like it needs the kiss of life, and not just because it’s about the living dead.
Pitt has joined his fellow actors on locations in Budapest, where World War Z will go through seven weeks of additional shooting.
The picture started filming nearly a year ago and then wrapped last summer — but clearly director Marc Forster and his producers aren’t happy, because seven weeks is a long time to re-shoot a film.
Globetrotter: Pitt, far left, on the film set of 'World War Z' which will shoot additional scenes
Details are sketchy and it’s not certain whether or not the film’s other stars, Matthew Fox and James Badge Dale, are with Pitt for the new shooting schedule.
World War Z is based on Max Brooks’s novel World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War, told from the point of view of a UN inspector issuing a post-war report on a decades-long battle against flesh-eating zombies.
The film had originally been scheduled for release this December but has now been put back to June next year.
The Fast And The Furious set for London
Fast Six, latest in The Fast And The Furious action movie series, has hit a roadblock even before shooting begins in the UK.
The latest escapade is set in and around London, but little will be shot there.
Director Jason Lin wanted to blow up a 90ft oil tanker in Piccadilly Circus but that idea, for obvious reasons, hit a speed bump with Westminster Council.
Michelle Rodriguez, left and right, Dwayne Johnson, set for roles in the sixth installment of The Fast And The Furious
Lin and his design team were undaunted. ‘We’re recreating Piccadilly Circus to scale somewhere else,’ he confirmed.
The famous thoroughfare, where Piccadilly meets Regent Street and Shaftesbury Avenue, and its classic illuminations will be replicated not exactly brick by brick, but probably hardboard by plywood, at the old Longcross tank facility in Surrey.
‘With a replica, you can do anything,’ he said gleefully.
Many of the fast-paced car chase scenes will be done in Liverpool, although the odd sequence is expected to be filmed at Canary Wharf.
Fast Six, about sophisticated car thieves and mega-speed races, features Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson and Luke Evans.
Watch out for…
Julian Fellowes, who has been asked to write the book for the musical stage version of Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning picture Slumdog Millionaire.
I understand that deals are now being discussed, but nothing has yet been settled for Fellowes to adapt the film and the novel upon which it was based.
Matthew Warchus, enjoying well-deserved success for his direction of the Royal Shakespeare Company hit Matilda, has been asked to direct the show.
Set for the stage Slumdog Millionaire is set to be transformed into a musical
Nothing has been signed but I also gather that composer A.R. Rahman, who won two Oscars (for his score and best song) for Slumdog Millionaire, will write the score for the stage show.
Interestingly, Simon Beaufoy, whose superb screenplay for Slumdog won him an Oscar, has written a version of his screenplay The Full Monty for the stage. That show will feature music and will be directed by Daniel Evans in Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre in February, where it has already taken over 300,000 in advances.
I mention Beaufoy because I’m intrigued that he wasn’t approached to adapt Slumdog for the theatre, too. Would have seemed natural, but hey-ho.
Stephen Daldry, Elton John, Lee Hall and Peter Darling, whose musical stage version of the Working Title award-winning film Billy Elliot continues at the Victoria Palace as it enters its eighth year.
I’m writing this from abroad, so I missed the anniversary hoopla on Wednesday night, but I’ve seen the show about 20 times, in all corners of the world, and the thing that keeps coming through loud and clear is how vital the arts — theatre, cinema, television, audio, visual, whatever! — are to people of all walks of life.
For me, Billy Elliot remains the best musical on the London stage, and in this Jubilee year (and weekend) it’s a show the Queen cherishes.
Derek Jacobi, who has been joined by Fiona Button, Emma Fielding, George Layton and Ronald Pickup in director Richard Clifford’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House, which will begin performances at Chichester’s Festival Theatre from July 6.
While I’ve got Chichester on my mind, I hear there are negotiations in play to bring Trevor Nunn’s production of the musical Kiss Me Kate from Chichester to the Old Vic.
Kiss Me Kate, which stars Hannah Waddingham, Alex Bourne, Adam Garcia, Clive Rowe and David Burt, will begin performances at Chichester from June 18 through till September 1. Dates for the possible transfer, if it happens, are not yet known.
Anna Massey, who starred in Jack Ryder’s short film Act Of Memory before she died last year.
The movie, a poignant and beautifully made piece about a woman reflecting on a Christmas when she was a little girl, was screened during the Cannes Film Festival for distributors.
Sky Arts will show it over the holiday season and Ryder is fielding offers from TV and film companies in other countries. He is now working on a feature film project.