Spice Girls, Motown songs to hit the stage

Posted at 06/27/2012 2:47 PM | Updated as of 06/28/2012 1:55 PM

The music of Motown and the songs of the girl group The Spice Girls are headed to the musical stage, producers announced on Tuesday.

The Motown Sound is making its way to Broadway next year in a show based on the life of hit maker Berry Gordy, while "Viva Forever!", a new musical based on songs that made the Spice Girls one of the biggest bands of the 1990s, opens at the Piccadilly Theatre in London's West End on December 11.

The Spice Girls reunited for a few hours on Tuesday to launch the musical, written by British comedian Jennifer Saunders and produced by "Mamma Mia!" mastermind Judy Craymer.

Victoria Beckham, Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm and Geri Halliwell -- or to use their more familiar monikers Posh, Scary, Baby, Sporty and Ginger Spice -- were back together 12 years after they split and seven years since their reunion tour.

"I don't think it took (us) any convincing at all," Chisholm told a small group of reporters who met the band members before they appeared on stage to present the musical.

"It's something we've spoken about a lot over the years. I think that our music lends itself really well to theater and when we reunited in 2007 that was when we started to talk about it more seriously."

Beckham, in a black outfit made by her own fashion brand, added: "We always said if we do this we want to work with the best people, because that's what we've always done. Everything we've done we've done properly and we've got the 'A-team.'"

Not a biography

The Spice Girls' level of involvement in the musical was not fully clear, although they were consulted on the storyline and have seen early workshops.

"As much as we've written the songs, we also didn't want to creatively stifle Judy and Jennifer," Beckham said.

"So, somewhat, we have let them do what they do. Their success speaks for themselves. We really gave them the freedom to do their thing. We had a lot of faith in them."

Beckham, who has remained in the limelight since the band went into hiatus in 2000 due to her success as a designer and style icon and marriage to soccer star David Beckham, hoped Viva Forever! would bring girl power to a new audience.

"We talked about girl power for a long long time and we're hoping to introduce a whole new generation. What we do individually as well is empower women and it's fun - we want to have fun and we're excited."

Viva Forever! is not a re-telling of the Spice Girls' meteoric rise to global fame after they formed in 1994 having answered an advertisement to form a girl band.

While it does feature their hits, which include "Wannabe", "Spice Up Your Life" and "Viva Forever", it centers around four characters who audition for a TV talent show.

"It's not about actually us, it's the essence of the Spice Girls," said Halliwell, who, like the other four Spice Girls, is a mother in her late 30s.

"There is a talent show in there, but actually, really what it's about is about friendship, it's about motherhood and then there is a little bit of how do you juggle between success and friendship?"

Motown magic

Meanwhile, "Motown the Musical" will feature songs made famous by Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson Five and other artists who found fame in the 1960s and 1970s with the Detroit-based record label founded by Gordy.

Motown and the Motown Sound grew out of rhythm and blues and soul music and became pop as the record label's stars cranked out hits. As important as the music was the influence Motown's African American stars had on US culture during the civil rights era as their songs crossed over to mainstream success.

Gordy, 82, will co-produce the Broadway show described as "a gripping story about the proteges and stars of a uniquely talented musical family who, under Berry Gordy's guidance, began as the 'Sound of Young America' and went on to become some of the greatest superstars of all time."

Gordy said in a statement that Broadway provides "a challenging and exciting opportunity to tell my story and share the magic of Motown."

"I can't wait to feel that same Motown spirit come alive on stage every night," he added.

The musical is due to open in the spring of 2013. Casting was not announced. -- Reports from Reuters