Previewed 5 October 1999, Opened 12 October 1999, Closed 5 August 2000 at the Piccadilly Theatre
The new musical Spend Spend Spend in London
In 1961, before The Beatles, moonwalking and the mini skirt, housewife Viv Nicholson won the first mega-jackpot on the football pools. When the papers asked Viv Nicholson what she'd do with her new fortune, her answer turned her into a household name: "I'm going to spend, spend, spend!".
Her rags to riches and back to rags story took her through five husbands, fast cars, bankruptcy and booze. She woke up spent. This riveting new musical charts the tragedy, the comedy and the love story that is the legend of Viv Nicholson.
WINNER! Best Musical - London Evening Standard Theatre Awards and Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards.
Musical with music and lyrics by Steve Brown and Justin Greene, and book by Steve Brown, inspired by the life of Viv Nicholson from the book by Viv Nicholson and Stephen Smith.
The cast featured Barbara Dickson as 'Viv Nicholson' (from 5 October 1999 to 22 July 2000), Diane Langton as 'Viv Nicholson' (from 24 July 2000 to 5 August 2000), Steven Houghton as 'Keith Nicholson', Rachel Leskovac as 'Young Viv Nicholson', Craig Nicholls, Duncan Smith, Gary Milner, Jamie Somers, Jeff Shankley, Jonathan Burn, Kate Harbour, Marjorie Keys, Mary Stockley, Nicola Sloane, Paul Thornloy, Robin Samson, Stuart Nurse, Stuart Pendred, Susan Fay, and Tania Caridia.
Directed by Jeremy Sams, with choreography by Craig Revel Horwood, designs by Lez Brotherston, lighting by Mark Henderson, and sound by Rick Clarke.
This musical premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse's Quarry Theatre for a one month run from 26 May 1998 to 27 June 1998 when the 10-strong cast featured Rosemary Ashe as 'Viv Nicholson', Sophie Louise Dann as 'Young Viv Nicholson', Andrew Kennedy, Jonathan D Ellis, Melissa Jacques, Michelle Fine, Neil McCaul, Nigel Richards, Paul Thornley, and Sara Williams. It was directed by Justin Green, with choreography by Pat Garrett, designs by Niki Turner, lighting by Robert Bryan, and sound by Mic Pool.
The musical was completely restaged and recast and, prior to London's West End, was presented at the Plymouth Theatre Royal from 13 to 25 September 1999, with the same cast and creative team as at London's Piccadilly Theatre.
"The score, by Steve Brown, is packed with memorable tunes ranging from G&S pastiche through stirring folk to pure pop. The lyrics, by Brown and Justin Greene, are sharp and often witty, and their show emerges as both gritty urban legend and modern morality tale, on the timeless theme that money can't buy you happiness, still less love. Jeremy Sams directs with panache, moving from soap opera-ish scenes of booze and poverty to the bright lights and the terrible hangovers that followed the big win by Viv and her beloved husband Keith in 1961. Just occasionally the show seems a touch clichéd, but most of our lives consist of clichés, none more so than Nicholson's... The show's wisest decision is to have two actresses playing Viv. Barbara Dickson is the present-day Viv, older but not always wiser, and looking back on her reckless younger self with a mixture of affection and exasperation. As the randy, bottle-blonde young Viv, newcomer Rachel Leskovac is a real find - funny, touching, insolent, plucky, bursting with spirit and sexual appetite... Spend Spend Spend is popular entertainment at its best, devoid of the cynical contrivance of so many musicals and blessed with heart, humour and irresistible humanity." The Daily Telegraph
"A jaunty, folksy, warmingly old-fashioned new musical. In a lottery-led materialistic society, we can learn a lot from this cartoon-like moral fable, which is a Miss Rake's Progress (and Decline)... Viv recalls the story in flashback in the hairdressing salon in Castleford where she still works. This Viv is played, with wry, reflective heartiness by Barbara Dickson, giving a good imitation of Gracie Fields in her housecoat and slippers, and a pale imitation of herself in Blood Brothers. Her younger, active self is brilliantly taken by a brand new star. Rachel Leskovac, born and bred in Bradford, gives us a raunchy, restless Viv whose unimaginable luck guarantees fulfilment and a pink Chevrolet. She drives the car, and the show, with a glorious momentum of personality... Jeremy Sams's production includes fine perfomances from Steven Houghton as the most important of Viv's five husbands, and Jeff Shankley as her Dad. The show, wittily designed by Lez Brotherston, is full of clever ideas, smart choreography and visual gags. The songs, including a climactic chorus line of good-life Bunny Girls, are well crafted and occasionally haunting." The Daily Mail
"Pulled on to the stage at the end, Viv Nicholson acknowledged the ovation in tearful fashion, but then she hitched up her frock and stuck her bum out at the audience. It's that tough, impudent spirit that Steve Brown and Justin Greene have captured so well in a musical which manages to be both English and utterly irresistible. Full of punchy pastiches of the sounds of the Fifties and Sixties, the score is bound together by Yorkshire mining folk ballads... The memory-play structure has point and wit, since it is framed by scenes which show us the older Viv in passionate voice and now working in a beauty salon. A place where women come in the hope of life-changing makeovers, it's an ironic setting for Viv who has seen through that illusion... It's true there could be more intricate interplay between the two Vivs and that the second half is bitterly episodic, but Jeremy Sams, who directs the piece with terrific panache, does a good job of disguising this." The Independent
"Rarely does a standing ovation greet the opening of a new show. Even more seldom do the occupants of the stalls leap to their feet to rapturously applaud a British musical. But Spend Spend Spend is very special - a magical mix of a fine score, stirring performances and a strong plot, full of social realism which snatches the British musical out of the arms of Lloyd Webber and points it towards a glorious new tomorrow. It may romanticise the story of Viv Nicholson but the script, by Steve Brown and Justin Greene, doesn't disguise her deficiencies. And the songs, with music by Brown and lyrics by Greene, are every bit as moving and more musically accomplished than those Willie Russell wrote for Blood Brothers. Barbara Dickson starred in that British classic and she stars again here as the older Viv. She's terrific and so is Steven Houston as the guileless husband drowning in his own luck. But following the tradition of all great opening nights, the sensation of Jeremy Sams' dynamic production is a previously unknown talent, Rachel Leskovac, who bursts to stardom as the young, impetuous, vivacious Viv. Wave the flag and spend, spend, spend to get a ticket. It's the biggest British winner in years." The News of the World
Spend Spend Spend in London at the Piccadilly Theatre previewed from 5 October 1999, opened on 12 October 1999, and closed on 5 August 2000