'We're not known for being slick… but it went perfectly': Mel C on Spice Girls' Olympic closing ceremony performance
00:11 GMT, 24 August 2012
When the Spice Girls danced on the roofs of those taxis at the Olympics closing ceremony they looked like they were thrilled to be back together again. But, says, Melanie Chisholm, they were actually terrified.
‘The band had rehearsed for a week-and-a-half but we were still absolutely petrified,’ says Mel. ‘The routine was quite technical, which added an element of danger. We still have a big fan base and we were determined not to let them down.
‘There was a huge roar as we entered the Olympic stadium, and that gave us an extra boost of adrenaline. We’re not known for being particularly slick. In fact, shambolic is more like it. But it went perfectly.
'Our biggest-ever show': Mel, second right, with Spice Girls Victoria, Geri, Emma and Mel B at the Olympic Closing Ceremony
‘While we were performing, we each glanced at the others as if to acknowledge that we knew we’d nailed it.
‘Performing at the closing ceremony of the Olympics was the biggest show of the Spice Girls’ career. It was such an honour and a privilege to be invited to take part.
‘Then as soon as we came off-stage, we joined the big party in the green room. Everyone was there from The Who to Jessie J. We even had a bit of a mutual love-in with Liam Gallagher, which was nice because back in the Nineties there was rivalry between Oasis and the Spice Girls. But that’s all in the past now.
‘Then we went on to George Michael’s party until the small hours. I can honestly say that it’s an evening I’ll never forget.’
Stylish: Melanie Chisholm's trademark tracksuit bottoms are long gone
Perhaps performing together was so good an experience that Mel, along with Victoria Beckham, Geri Halliwell, Mel B and Emma Bunton might repeat it
‘No,’ says Mel firmly, ‘we have no plans to get together again. We all lead such different lives, and Mel B and Victoria don’t even live in the UK any more.’
For all that, though, she and Emma Bunton do a highly creditable duet on Mel’s new album, Stages.
Whichever way you slice it, 2012 has been a watershed year for Mel C, aka Sporty Spice, although the regulation tracksuit bottoms appear to have been consigned to history. Today, she’s the embodiment of understated chic in a navy blue culotte outfit and cream ankle boots.
‘Yes, it’s bizarre,’ she agrees. ‘At the beginning of the year, I had a few shows booked in Europe, and I’m appearing at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on November 6. But, other than that, I didn’t have much of a plan. Then suddenly my diary filled up with other people’s plans for me.’
First was her role as mentor and judge on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV search for the singer who’d play the title role in the forthcoming arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. She’d never met fellow judge Jason Donovan before.
‘But we had a real connection from the first day,’ she says. ‘I adore him. He’s so much fun, and with no ego. You can totally take the mickey.
‘He’s had difficulties in his life but he’s worked really hard and he’s sorted now. I see him as a bit of a big brother.
‘And I have him to thank for the role of Mary Magdalene. I mentioned to him I could be interested and he believed in me. He gave me the kick up the bum I needed to approach Andrew. ‘I grew up in the Eighties loving musical theatre of which Andrew was the king. So it’s been quite surreal getting to work with him.
‘My admiration for him grew each day. He’s such a compassionate man. And he left the contestants with such confidence to carry on with their careers.’
'Nailed it': The Spice Girls were delighted with their one-off reunion performance at the Olympics
Technical: The band rehearsed for a week-and-a-half to get the routine spot on
The tour opens at London’s O2 Arena on Friday, September 21, and criss-crosses the UK and Ireland before finishing in Sheffield a month later.
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Composer and comedian Tim Minchin will take the role of Judas Iscariot, former Radio 1 Breakfast Show host Chris Moyles makes his major stage debut as Herod (‘and yes,’ says Mel, ‘he can sing’) and talent show winner Ben Forster will play Jesus.
‘I’m going to have a lot of fun with Chris when we’re on the road together in Superstar,’ laughs Mel. Is he quaking in his boots at the prospect ‘I sincerely hope so. He’ll be the new boy, so he should prepare himself for a little gentle teasing. I’m looking forward to seeing him panicking backstage.’
It’s also a new departure for Mel. ‘I know it’s a challenge, but in my heart I feel I can do it well. I also know from working in the musical Blood Brothers you’re in the hands of your director — and we have a first-rate one.
‘We’ll be performing in big arenas, but they don’t hold any fear for me after appearing in huge venues with the Spices.’
One-off: Despite their successful performance, the Spice Girls have ruled out getting back together
Different directions: Spice Girls Victoria Beckham, left, and Melanie Brown, right, no longer live in the UK
Mel has 11 prominent tattoos on her body, so will they be on show ‘Possibly,’ she says coyly, then points to the large crucifix on her left arm. ‘That one wouldn’t be out of place, would it’
Being on the panel of ITV’s Superstar reunited her with fellow judge Dawn French. ‘She’s so funny, a warm and wonderful person,’ she says.
The Spice Girls have a relationship with Dawn and Jennifer Saunders which goes way back to when they first bumped into them while they were recording Wannabe in 1996.
‘It was in a studio in Richmond and we took a break for lunch,’ says Mel. ‘We saw them having a meal outside a pub. We went over and introduced ourselves and it all grew from there.
‘We did Comic Relief with them in 1997. Emma knows Jennifer well because she’s often featured in Ab Fab. And Geri’s a good friend of Dawn’s.’
And they’ve all been working with Jennifer on Viva Forever, the musical using the Spice Girls’ back catalogue for which Jennifer has written the story.
Collaborators: Mel C and Superstar creator Andrew Lloyd Webber
When they were performing in their Reunion Tour in 2007 the girls came up with the idea for a stage musical.
‘They approached Judy Craymer, the producer of Mamma Mia! which uses the songs of Abba woven into an unrelated story. Geri and Emma met Judy first and sang her praises to the other three.
‘Victoria brought her along to see me in Blood Brothers,’ says Mel. She’s Girl Power personified. She also came up with the idea of Jennifer writing the story.
‘Jennifer was in Spice World: The Movie and she’s been in and out of our lives over the years. We five girls each have very strong opinions but made a decision to back off when it came to Viva Forever.’
She says of the storyline: ‘It’s about empowerment, friendship and relationships.
‘The story is of a four-piece girl group who win a talent show and the good and bad things that fame brings in its wake. There’s lots of comedy as well as some very moving moments and, of course, great music! The last thing we saw were the workshops when different people were tried for different roles — and we were all over the moon.
‘We did get involved in the casting — almost all of them are well-known in the business but not necessarily household names — and we all plan to be at the opening night on December 11, if we can.’
If you believe just a quarter of what you read, the Spice Girls can barely be in the same room together, five strong-willed young women ready to rip each other’s heads off at a moment’s notice.
Melanie lets out a noise somewhere between a sigh and a smile. ‘I’ll tell you something: Viva Forever is the one thing we’ve all agreed on.’ And now she lets out a full-throated, raucous laugh. ‘I’m joking, I’m joking,’ she says.
‘So much is still written about us and it’s hilarious. We’ve had our moments, like all friends do, but basically we get on fine. These days, of course, we don’t see that much of each other. I’m probably closest to Emma and Geri because we all live quite near each other in North-West London. But whenever Victoria or Melanie is in town, we always try to hook up.’
I say that if you judge by her body language alone, Victoria feels least like a team player — but Mel jumps to her defence.
‘Victoria’s probably one of the most commented-upon people in the world and I’m sure that will go on forever and a day. But I really think she’s misunderstood,’ she insists.
‘Anyone who knows her will say she’s so much fun. I respect her and what she has achieved.
‘But that’s true of all of us. We have mutual respect because we know we wouldn’t have done what we’ve done if we hadn’t achieved what we did together. We’ve very grateful to each other.
‘And we love each other to bits — in the way sisters do. Sometimes, one of us might have a problem with one of the others. But it’s never a big drama. We have a policy that, if there’s something that one of us is unhappy with, then we talk about it. That’s what’s kept us such good mates.’
Heyday: The Spice Girls performing at the Brit Awards in 1997
The early days: From left to right are Sporty Spice Melanie Chisholm, Bbay Spice Emma Bunton, Posh Spice Victoria Beckham, Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell and Scary Spice Melanie Brown
Melanie, now 38, is on record as having battled depression and issues of self-esteem. But all that changed in February 2009 with the birth of her daughter Scarlet by her long-time boyfriend, property developer Thomas Starr, 45, whom she met in Barbados in 2002.
She says. ‘When Scarlet arrived, I found myself feeling much more confident and courageous, both in my life and in my career. For the first time, all the attention wasn’t on me any more and I found that very liberating.
‘I started brushing my insecurities aside because I want to be great for Scarlet. Then I was presented with the opportunity of starring in Blood Brothers, and it’s all sort of snowballed from there.’
Sadly, she and Thomas parted in July, a break-up necessarily lived out in the public spotlight.
‘I learnt about the downside of fame early on,’ she says. ‘The way I’ve tried to deal with it is to keep as much of my private life as private as I possibly can. I’m a performer, and that’s the bit of me I want to present to the world.
‘I don’t think people are that curious about my personal relationships. The public are much more curious about what’s going on in the lives of the people in The Only Way Is Essex and that gives the rest of us a bit of a break.’
Reunion: Spice Girls, from left, Melanie Chisholm,Victoria Beckham, Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown and Emma Bunton perform at the O2 Arena in London, in 2007, as part of their reunion world tour
She is currently working out the jigsaw puzzle (her description) of how to ensure Scarlet is looked after in the month Jesus Christ Superstar tours the country. ‘My mum, Joan, lives in Liverpool but that’s only a couple of hours away by train now. She’s amazing and she knows Scarlet really well.’
And after that ‘I really don’t know. Let’s see how the album does. I’d love to get a live concert tour together.
‘And I do have an ambition to work on Broadway in a musical. I’d love to play the role of Evita. But I also love my solo music, so I’m hoping to write some more next year.’
In the meantime, she’s keen to get behind the release of Stages on September 10. It was first conceived in 2010 while she was still in Willy Russell’s award-winningBlood Brothers; indeed, Tell Me It’s Not True, from the musical, is on the album. Other tracks include I Don’t Know How To Love him, which she sang in the final of Superstar and is out as a single.
Then there’s Maybe This Time (from Cabaret), I Know Him So Well (from Chess) — her duet with Emma, which will be the second single released, and I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, a hit for Dusty Springfield in 1964.
‘I’m a Capricorn,’ says Mel, ‘and, like the goat, we get to the top of the mountain eventually. I’ve been incredibly fortunate and had a wonderful career, but I’m always striving for something more.’
Can she ever imagine finding love again A small cloud passes across her face. ‘It’s all too raw, too soon. It’s bottom of my list of priorities right now.’
For tour and tickets, visit jesuschristsuperstar.com