Spend Spend Spend

Friday, 15 October, 1999

The musical is based on the true story of Viv Nicholson, who won a fortune on the pools in 1961 and then within a few years had spent the lot on five husbands, fast cars and alcohol. The story starts with the present day, where Viv is now working as a hairdresser. We are then transported back in time to Castleford in Yorkshire to when Viv was sixteen and was suffering abuse from her father and how she later struggles to cope with an unhappy marriage on very little money. However, things change when she and her second husband win 152, 000 ukp on the pools (equivalent to 3 million by today's terms). Her famous words when asked by the press what she will do with the money was "Spend, Spend, Spend", and this is exactly what she did, but it did not make her as happy as she thought. In fact, the money had brought other unforeseen problems.

"Spend Spend Spend", charts her life from rags to riches and back to rags. It all may seem quite morbid and dull, but this musical certainly is not that. It is full of energy and fire, getting across that Viv is an extraordinary, exciting woman who has survived a remarkable set of events that would have put many others over the edge. Viv is a fighter, and this musical expresses it with an exuberant passion of great tunes and lyrics and the enthusiasm of a talented cast. Barbara Dickson plays the older Viv Nicholson with conviction and a touch of sadness when she is reflecting on the mistakes of the past, and of course her singing is powerful and a joy to listen to. But even more astounding is the performance of Rachel Leskovac, who is making her West End debut as the Young Viv. Her performance is solid and her singing is powerful and a delight. I think she has a big future a head of her. There are also fine performances from Steve Houghton as Viv's second husband and Jeff Shankly as Viv's father.

The show has received great reviews from the popular press: CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Best new British musical in years" and goes on to say "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." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES says the show has "splendidly lively songs" and "excellent lyrics". IAN SHUTTLEWORTH of THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "It is the most glorious new musical I can ever recall seeing." He goes on to say "Spend Spend Spend fully deserves to join Blood Brothers as a working-class "up yours" fixture among West End musicals...." However, NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD was luke warm about the show saying, "Unfortunately this musical lacks a sharp book of lyrics, though there's some rollicking fun on the journey."

The West End is alive at the moment with great shows and this one can be added to the list. It is an enjoyable musical that will keep you thoroughly entertained for two and half-hours with tuneful songs, a fascinating story and some breathtaking performances.

(Darren Dalglish)

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