The groundbreaking girl band have reunited for their next project. The Spice Girls reveal their excitement about their newly-announced musical, Viva Forever.
By Albertina Lloyd.
It's 16 years since the Spice Girls burst onto the scene in a whirl of bright colours, big hair, platform trainers and catchy tunes.
Ginger, Baby, Sporty, Scary and Posh knew exactly who they wanted to be - dressing, saying and doing what they pleased.
They were top of the pops, scoring nine UK number ones and selling 75 million records worldwide, but they were down to earth too, and sexy but not sexualised. Girls all over the world wanted to be them and Girl Power was born.
These days Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown and Victoria Beckham have babies of their own, successful solo projects and much classier clothes than they wore back in the glory years.
But reunited at the hotel where they filmed their debut video Wannabe, this time to promote their musical Viva Forever!, they are still the Spice Girls we know and love.
"It feels very natural when we get back together," says Bunton. "We giggle like children. We regress, we turn into kids... we have fun." As if to prove a point, they all start talking over each other and laughing.
"We actually do have quite a good time together when it's just us lot," declares Halliwell, dispelling recent rumours of a rift.
Despite being the smallest Spice Girl, she is definitely the loudest - sitting as she is at the head of the table and talking excitedly over the others.
"Only we're allowed to criticise each other, no one else, it's like family," she adds.
The rift may all be rumour but, if so, the pressure to prove it wrong does sometimes show among the group.
Occasionally, when Beckham and Halliwell interrupt one another, they make a show of patting each other and gushing: "Sorry. No, you go first."
Beckham seems shy as she sits at the end, playing with her hair, smiling (not pouting) at things the others say and offering careful, serious contributions.
Brown constantly cackles over the others and occasionally chips in with something cheeky, which prompts Chisholm to tut like a mother hen and add something sensible.
Bunton is just sweet and chirpy and happy to go along with it all.
Halliwell appears to have been the driving force at getting the musical, written by Jennifer Saunders and produced by Mamma Mia! creator Judy Craymer, off the ground, but they say they were all keen to see it happen.
"I don't think it took any convincing at all," says Chisholm earnestly. "It's something we've spoken about a lot over the years. I think that our music lends itself very well to theatre."
Beckham adds: "We've 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. So we're very excited about it."
Knowing they wanted an original story that used their songs, not a musical about the band, they set their sights on Craymer, impressed by what she had done with Abba musical Mamma Mia!
Halliwell sent her an email asking for her help and then she and Bunton laid on the charm.
"Emma and I got her round in my kitchen. And we were trying to be on our best behaviour going, 'Hi, we're really nice!'"
Saunders, a staunch Spice Girls fan who recorded the Comic Relief single with them in 1997, demanded to write the show.
Bunton raves: "We adore her and have known her for years. She's just brilliant, and she went through the story with each of us."
The musical is about a young girl whose relationship with her adoptive mother is under strain as she dreams of stardom and enters a TV talent show.
"It's about friendship and motherhood and then there is a little bit of, 'How do you juggle between success and friendship?'" gabbles Halliwell.
Bunton and Chisholm confess they shed a tear while watching workshops of the show. "It is weird hearing other people sing our songs. But it's nice," says Bunton.
The girls are keen to watch the auditions. "Do you remember when we did our tour and me and you auditioned the dancers?" Brown asks Beckham. "I loved doing that!"
"And I took the boys and the boys were having a little dance as well," says Beckham, referring to the sons she has with footballer David Beckham.
Bunton jumps in raucously: "And we just kept sending emails saying, 'Make sure they've got good bodies!'"
As they reminisce about their old costumes, Beckham reveals: "I have all my costumes still and I can't wait to show [baby daughter] Harper when she's a little bit bigger."
She breaks off, as the other girls are all whispering and giggling. "Buffalo shoes! It's Buffalo shoes that Victoria really liked," Halliwell blurts out, referring to the chunky platform trainers they all wore, setting a trend among schoolgirls all over the world.
The others laugh and nod as Bunton explains: "She hated them."
"No," huffs Beckham. "I didn't really, I just didn't want to wear them myself."
She adds: "I think we're just so proud of what we achieved, and when we looked back at footage - Geri just did a little video for us all - we were all nearly brought to tears. It brought back so many memories for us all."
The girls promise they will be there on opening night but, despite having starred in a West End musical already, Chisholm won't commit to appearing in the show.
"I think this is just a wonderful thing for us to experience," she explains in her calm, diplomatic tones.
"Personally for me, I'm just proud that our music is in a show, and is going to be performed night after night."
Beckham adds: "We talked about Girl Power for a long, long time and to introduce a whole new generation... is fun."
And with that they're off, buzzing and giggling like they've never been apart.
Extra time - The life of Spice :: Victoria Beckham has four children with footballer David Beckham and is a successful fashion designer.
:: Emma Bunton has two young sons with her partner, former Damage singer Jade Jones, and hosts her own show on Heart radio.
:: Melanie Chisholm is mum to three-year-old Scarlett and about to release her sixth solo album as well as starring in the new production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
:: Geri Halliwell has six-year-old Bluebell, designs clothes, works on new music and was recently a guest judge on The X Factor :: Melanie Brown is a judge on Australian X Factor and has three daughters, one with actor Eddie Murphy.
:: Viva Forever! opens at London's Piccadilly Theatre in December. For information and tickets, see www.vivaforeverthemusical.com/