"...this glorious account of one woman’s inglorious career is a belter, bursting with energy, appetite, and coarse humor." The Times
“Another summer, another terrific small-scale musical revival from The Watermill.” The Guardian ****
“This was the sort of experience the West End is supposed to deliver – and so rarely does. A really, really good night out.” Theatre World
“With such a fantastic cast of actor-musicians contributing equally to the success of the production, everyone has specific talents that are played to the fore.” The Stage
“I cannot recommend this show highly enough.” Marlborough People Website SPEND SPEND SPEND Viv Nicholson Famous Pools Wins Mighty, marvelous and full of northern wit, in these times of boom and bust here is a story for our times. The musical is based on the true story of Viv Nicholson, a Yorkshire housewife, who in 1961 had the biggest ever pools win of £152,319. When asked what she was going to do with the money she replied “I’m going to spend, spend, spend “ and that is precisely what she did. So a rags to riches and back again story looking at money and fame and what it brings…. happiness or despair? And perhaps a look at how people cope with life – what makes some people successful while others lurch from disaster to disaster?
SPEND SPEND SPEND
Having said all that the prevailing feeling on leaving this musical is that it is really a lesson on how to find someone to love you and how your upbringing and circumstances can make this difficult. The pools win obviously forms a large part of the story but the whole first half of the musical looks at Viv growing up, discovering sex and relationships and how she manages to untangle an unhappy start to discover the man of her dreams. The tale is told by a middle-aged Viv, played with panache by Karen Mann, and flashes back to the start of the story, with another actress playing her younger self. The two Vivs, young and older, are on stage together for most of the musical – sometimes with the older version just standing by watching, at other times coming to the fore to tell the next bit of the story.
The set is ingenious and readily transforms from a northern working man’s pub to a house, then a bedroom and back again! The lighting helps to change the atmosphere well, although spotlights were occasionally just a little bit off target! Costumes are excellent with Viv’s outfits after the pools win striking just the right note of brashness.
The cast all play instruments while they dance and act and accomplish this “triple act” so well that you soon forget that they are actually playing the excellent music. It does make for an entirely new sort of theatrical event. – The dance routines are slightly pared back with just a couple of numbers where the whole cast join in and throughout the action, most of the cast are on stage, often with some at the sides casually playing instruments as bystanders. This works well and it is a tribute to the slick choreography that you rarely notice a cast member putting down or picking up their instrument. It is also rather fun to see the people actually playing the music, as in a conventional musical they are hidden away!
Musical numbers vary from upbeat and sexy through a beautiful stirring chorus of coal miners to the moving duet of Viv and Young Viv as they ask heartbreakingly “who’s gonna love me”. The cast are so full of enthusiasm that you are swept along on the roller coaster ride and, with the characters often popping up in the audience; the whole shebang is just great fun.
The beauty of live theatre is that you can actually watch a particular performer who takes your eye, rather than being dictated to by a close up on TV. I enjoyed watching the enthusiasm and joie de vivre of Susannah van den Berg throughout the whole evening and particularly enjoyed her dancing in the bunny girl routine.
Special mentions go to Greg Barnett, playing Keith, and Kirsty Hoiles, playing young Viv. They were sexy, gorgeous and entirely believable as a young couple in love. I also loved the sheer grit and determination of Karen Mann playing the older Viv and enjoyed the way she mirrored the actions of her younger self.
I expected to enjoy this show and I did. I didn’t expect to be sitting in the theatre with tears steaming down my face watching a love story. Go and watch. You will have a ball.