Spice Girls musical 'Viva Forever' opens in London

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LONDON (AP) — "Viva Forever"? Time will tell.

Girl Power lit up London's West End on Tuesday at the premiere of the new Spice Girls musical — but audiences and critics will decide whether it has the energy to become a hit.

The five members of the 1990s girl group, who all attended the show, were confident as they took the stage alongside the cast for a curtain call at London's Piccadilly Theatre.

"It was ... great," said Melanie Brown, also known as brassy band member Scary Spice. She inserted an emphatic expletive before "great."

Added band mate Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell: "That's why we're the Spice Girls."

For a few hours Tuesday, it was as if the 1990s were back, as the Spice Girls and their fans attended the show, a tale of female friendship and mother-daughter bonds set to songs including "Wannabe," ''Spice Up Your Life" and the title track.

The show, written by comedian Jennifer Saunders, takes the Girl Power theme that made the band a pop sensation and updates it to a modern-day world of Twitter and TV talent shows.

It got a standing ovation, but not everyone was impressed. Mark Shenton, a critic for The Stage newspaper, tweeted that it was "a phony, manufactured musical" — and not even funny.

The Independent newspaper's theater critic Paul Taylor gave the show two stars out of five, calling it "lacking in any truly original or challenging spark."

Some audience members might have reflected that the real-life story of the Spice Girls — their rise to global fame from obscurity, subsequent fallout and varied solo careers — is richer and more interesting than the show's feel-good plot.

Success of the big-budget show will depend partly on how well the Spice Girls are still loved, a decade and a half after their heyday.

The five-piece group, known for its brash attitude and "Cool Britannia" branding, shot to fame in 1996 and sold 75 million records around the world. Halliwell left the group acrimoniously in 1998 and the group effectively split a decade ago.

The five members appeared on stage together for the first time in five years at the London Olympics closing ceremony in August and have reunited to promote "Viva Forever."

Four of the Spice Girls arrived together on the red carpet ahead of the premiere, to cheers and chants of "spice up your life" from scores of die-hard fans.

Melanie Chisholm — "Sporty Spice" — said she was not afraid of critics' verdict on the show.

"If people criticize it, we don't care — because we love it," she said.

Chisholm posed for photographers and fans on the red carpet before the show with Brown, Halliwell and Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton.

Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham, now a successful fashion designer, arrived later with her husband, soccer star David Beckham, and their Burberry-clad sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz.

"Viva Forever" is a pop confection with heavyweight credentials. Writer Saunders is co-creator of celebrity-skewering sitcom "Absolutely Fabulous." The producer is Judy Craymer, who produced stage and screen versions of the hugely successful ABBA musical "Mamma Mia!"

"I always wanted to be a Spice Girl, and this is as close as I'll get," Craymer said.

She stressed that "Viva Forever" is not the story of the Spice Girls — "It's a story of now."