Despite the tantrums it took to bring all five of them together, it was smiles all round (except for Posh) at Tuesday’s press conference to announce the Spice Girls’ new stage musical, Viva Forever!
Written by Jennifer Saunders and produced by Judy Craymer, who brought Mamma Mia! to the stage, the show will open before Christmas in London.
But it is a singular irony that the “Girl Power” musical has done little to bring the five Spice Girls together. They may have once sung “Friendship never ends”, but their association remains uneasy as the women approach their 40th birthdays.
They agreed – under insistence from manager Simon Fuller – to appear together for the press conference and be in the same room together on opening night.
But that is absolutely it. They won’t give joint interviews to a forthcoming ITV documentary tracing their lives from the early Spice Girls days. And they certainly won’t sing together or reunite as a band.
Indeed, earlier this month, Mel C and Mel B took to Twitter to express their disappointment at not being involved in Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee concert.
Mel C said: “Bit miffed I’m not down at Buckingham Palace”; while Mel B tweeted: “Makes me sooo sad Spice Girls wasn’t part of the queen’s jubilee, breaks my heart big time, I was so up for it, watched some of it on TV, amazing!”
But it wasn’t for lack of asking that the Spice Girls weren’t on stage that night. The group had been approached. Mel B, Mel C, Geri and Emma Bunton were all available. However, Victoria Beckham told one newspaper that they were all too busy with “lots on our plates”.
In truth, the only person who was “too busy” was Victoria. She and husband David remain Fuller’s biggest clients. They are so close that she even uses his offices as a base for UK meetings of her fashion label, and she regularly parks her daughter, Harper, in his office with a nanny and bodyguard while she works.
Victoria, 38, who has made a success of her second career as a fashion designer, has no interest in revisiting her first as a singer. In a recent interview, she conceded that she hadn’t been any great shakes as a pop star and found the whole episode rather an embarrassment.
“I enjoy what I’m doing now so much more,” she said. “Being in the Spice Girls was fantastic, but I was never going to be the best singer and it wasn’t my passion.”
As you might imagine, this may put Fuller in a tricky position from time to time as he also represents the other Spice Girls. This, perhaps, led to the snarky comments from the rest of the group who would have liked to take another bow – if only Victoria had consented to join them.
Eighteen years after the girls were first brought together, fierce feuds divide the group.
The principal battle line is the one drawn between Victoria and Mel B, 37 – although there have been spectacular fallings-out in recent years between Geri and Mel C, who objected to Geri’s attitude during their ill-fated reunion in 2007, and another between Geri and Victoria, fuelled apparently by jealousy.
Friends of Mel B say she and Victoria haven’t spoken in two years – and it would take a miracle for them to reconcile.
The origins of the latest feud are petty. The pair apparently fell out when Victoria declined to lend Mel a dress from her collection to wear on her reality show in the US.
This may have been wise as the show, Mel B: It’s A Scary World, fell far short of the upscale image of the Victoria Beckham brand.
Mel tried to get her solo career off the ground amid heavily staged bickering with second husband Stephen Belafonte. Her daughter by first husband Jimmy Gulzar and Angel, a love-child by Hollywood actor Eddie Murphy, looked on.
Mel B and Victoria pointedly send Tweets to the rest of the band without including each other. And the divisions do not end there.
Viva Forever! has unleashed a fresh wave of discontent. The five girls have been consulted about the show, which will use the band’s greatest hits as a backing track to an original storyline.
The musical will tell the story of a young woman, Viva, who appears on a reality talent contest. She’s then put together with four other girls in a manufactured band, who go on to enjoy global success – but at the price of broken friendships.
“The show isn’t about the Spice Girls directly, but it is sprinkled with their essence,” says Craymer.
It will include the songs Wannabe, Who Do You Think You Are? and Mama – all number ones during the Spice Girls’ heyday.
The deal to bring the show to the stage was struck with Fuller in late 2009. Negotiations, however, have been protracted.
One report in the US suggested: “Melanie Brown and Melanie Chisholm can’t agree on anything. It’s driving Jennifer Saunders crazy.”
A spokesman for the show denied that there had been conflict, but did concede that the girls had very different levels of involvement.
Mel C, 37, Emma, 36, and 39-year-old Geri have been to meetings in London as the show has been slowly put together over the past few years. Mel B and Victoria, who both live abroad, have had far less input.
A spokesman for the show insists: “The girls are tremendously supportive of it. Judy has kept everyone up to date with what is going on, and no one has put their foot down about anything.”
In an interview, Saunders said: “Before I started writing, I chatted to Emma and Mel C together because they live in London. I later talked to Geri, while Judy spoke to Mel B and Victoria.
“Geri was the one who wanted to know most about how the girls in the fictional group got on. What was lovely was explaining which song went where, and then they’d share memories of what happened when they recorded the individual songs.
“They have real affection for each other, and it’s also clear this was a very special time of their lives.”
Her comments ring hollow, however, when you know that each interview had to be conducted separately.
For, as was proved by the Spice Girls’ comeback tour in 2007, these are women who have moved in very different directions.
Indeed, the much-publicised tour was such a miserable experience that it was cut short – ending in February 2008 before planned dates in Sydney, Beijing, Cape Town and Buenos Aires.
The band had barely spent any time together since breaking up in 2000 and some of them – particularly Mel C – didn’t want the reunion in the first place.
The band were originally put together following a 1994 advertisement in The Stage newspaper. “R U 18-23 with the ability to sing/dance? R U streetwise, ambitious, outgoing and determined?” it asked.
The five who were eventually settled on were given aliases Ginger (Geri), Baby (Emma), Sporty (Mel C), Scary (Mel B) and Posh (Victoria), and had a period of false starts before being signed by the Virgin record label.
In 1996, Wannabe – their debut single – was a global smash that went to No 1 in 31 countries. It was followed by another eight No 1 singles, as well as a semi-fictional film and numerous worldwide tours.
Together with a series of huge marketing tie-ups – with the likes of Pepsi, Cadbury’s and PlayStation – they became the best-selling female group of all time.
Trouble, however, soon emerged, and the group’s original split was acrimonious. Geri had left after a huge row with Mel B in 1998, the year that both Victoria and Mel B were pregnant with their first babies.
Their third album, recorded after Victoria’s wedding in 1999, sold only a fraction as well as their previous ones. In December 2000, they agreed to concentrate on solo careers.
Mel C strongly resisted the reunion tour. She had suffered depression after the split and developed an eating disorder.
She agreed only when she was told that it would go ahead with or without her. Afterwards, she said she only joined so she couldn’t be painted as the villain.
However, she was worried that she might throw away the credibility she had fought hard to gain as a solo artist. Her first solo album, Northern Star, sold an impressive 4 million copies.
During the tour, there were clashes between Mel C and Geri, with Mel apparently finding Geri deeply irritating. Geri was late several times to rehearsals and insisted on halting proceedings to meditate.
To complicate matters, all of them were by that point mothers, apart from Mel C (who has since had a baby daughter), and the presence of the children and their various nannies made the tour even more exhausting and complicated.
In the end, it was Geri who pulled the plug on the tour. It was alleged that she was jealous of how famous Victoria had become since the five girls had gone their separate ways.
Emma, ever the peacemaker, was upset and had wanted to continue with the tour – but the rest had been happy to call it a day.
In any case, after the first few dates they didn’t socialise with each other after the shows, and even stayed in separate hotels.
When it was over, they went back to their respective careers: Victoria as a fashion designer, Mel B on her reality TV show and as a judge on the Australian X Factor, and Emma as a DJ for Heart FM.
Melanie C had her solo career – and a stint in a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End.
Geri enjoyed some success as a solo artist, but now designs clothes for Next and has a brief role as a judge on the forthcoming series of The X Factor.
So why have they agreed to Viva Forever? As one source on the show says: “All they have to do is sit back and count the money.”
Musicals of this sort are huge commercial juggernauts. We Will Rock You, the musical based on the hits of Queen and written by Ben Elton has grossed more than £150 million (R1.96bn). Mamma Mia! has a worldwide gross of £1.2bn.
As Fuller will have told them, they can hope to make far more than the £10m each they netted from the comeback tour by lending their songs to the show.
It is estimated they could make £3m a year each for years to come if the show is a hit. Not bad for a prefabricated group.
And even though the friendships were ephemeral, the music cheesy and the Girl Power philosophy not much more than a raucous slogan, the Spice Girls’ money-making juggernaut still thunders on.
– Daily Mail