By Belinda Goldsmith
LONDON (Reuters) - A musical based on the meteoric rise of British pop band The Spice Girls that was mauled by the critics is closing six months after its premiere in London, the show's producer said on Thursday.
The brainchild of "Mamma Mia!" creator Judy Craymer, "Viva Forever" was loosely based on the story of The Spice Girls, with a wannabe girl band making the finals of a TV singing contest resembling "The X Factor".
But the show, written by British comedienne Jennifer Saunders, struggled after receiving appalling reviews. Critics said it lacked the "va-voom" of The Spice Girls and labored under an "insultingly banal" script, poor performances and a gloomy set.
The Spice Girls, who backed the show and all attended the red-carpet opening in London's West End theatre district last December, thanked the cast and fans for their support.
"Although 'Viva Forever' won't continue in the West End, we are thrilled that the thousands of people who came to the show had as much fun as we did," they said in a statement.
Craymer said it was "with a heavy heart" that the decision was made to close the show, which opened with strong advance tickets sales but struggled to fill seats despite discounted tickets. The last show will be on June 29.
"The show has evolved since we first opened and is now brighter, lighter and funnier, but despite the wonderful audiences and extremely positive feedback we just can't make it work," she said in the statement.
Craymer's "Mamma Mia!", based on ABBA hits, has earned nearly $2 billion worldwide and was made into a hit film.
The crash of "Viva Forever!" belies the enduring popularity of The Spice Girls who stormed the charts in the 1990s with a string of hits including "Viva Forever", "Spice Up Your Life", and "Wannabe".
They sold more 80 million records worldwide and notched up nine British No. 1 singles during their six years together before splitting up in 2000.
Now mothers in their late 30s and early 40s, The Spice Girls remain popular with Britain's celebrity-obsessed tabloids and performed at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics.
"Viva Forever!" joins a list of musicals that have failed in London. DJ Mike Read's musical about Oscar Wilde closed one night into its run in 2004 and Cameron Mackintosh's "Betty Blue Eyes" closed after six months in 2011.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Britain's most successful composer of musicals, has condemned so-called jukebox musicals based on previously recorded songs as purely money-making schemes.
"They are cynical exercises. You must have your heart in the subject you choose to turn into a musical," Lloyd Webber said in a recent interview.
(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)