Q&A: “Mamma Mia!” Producer Judy Craymer on Harnessing Girl Power in the Spice Girls-Inspired “Viva Forever!”
By Patrick Pacheco ARTINFO
After ushering the ABBA musical “Mamma Mia!” to phenomenal success, the redoubtable British producer Judy Craymer is back with another roll of the dice: “Viva Forever!” a new musical featuring the songs of the Spice Girls, the quintet who raised the flag on “Girl Power” in the late ‘90s, selling 75 million albums in over 30 countries. “Mamma Mia” is a tough act to follow. After all, it’s still minting money — $2 billion at last count — in its 13th year on London’s West End and 11th on Broadway, not to mention productions around the world, and the high-grossing movie starring Meryl Streep.
As one of Britain’s richest women, Craymer certainly doesn’t need the tsuris that putting on any major musical invites. But the 54-year-old producer says she has been “re-energized” by assembling a team which she feels will help her strike gold (again) when “Viva Forever!” opens at London’s Piccadilly Theatre on December 11th. Writing the libretto is Jennifer Saunders, whose comedy stints include not only the TV classic “Absolutely Fabulous” but skits involving the Spice Girls-parodying “Sugar Lumps.” Directing is Paul Garrington, who apprenticed at the Royal Shakespeare Company and has helmed numerous productions of “Mamma Mia!”
Impressed with Craymer’s bona fides, the Spice Girls approached her about a musical, spurring the producer to concoct with Saunders a story which would fit into the pre-existing framework of the group’s biggest hits. What emerged after nearly three years and a couple of workshops is the story of young Viva, who, with three friends, enters a TV talent show. When she is catapulted to fame, leaving the others behind, the bonds of friendship are tested, as are Viva’s relationship with her loving but chaotic mother. Craymer recently spoke to us about “girl power,” humiliation, envy, and being lured into what she laughingly calls “the Spice Girls coven.”
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