of her workplace, a hairdressing salon in a boring shopping mall. The other is Rachel Leskovac, a brash, fesity yet oddly innocent and touching young woman with a platinum beehive. Among numbers that vary from cynical folk-ballad to spoof Gilbert and Sullivan to pastiche pop to rumba, both make the most of a lovely song of shared desolation, 'Who's Gonna Love Me?'
That comes some way after Viv and her second husband, Steven Houghton's appealing Keith, have escaped from back-to-back Castleford, with its flat caps, its boozing, brawling and poverty.
One day they are hiding from the rent man, the next they find they have wealth and friends galore. The tone of Jeremy Sams's production does not err whether it visits a miners' pub or a living room with a cream suede sofa, but I relished Act I's closing ode to Mammon : a beer-packed fridge, a golf set, a piano and other symbols of the good life slowly shunt across the stage while Viv herself, lolling on a literally enormous cheque, is carried about by spangled bunny girls and 'Chorus Line' clones.
Act II brings a big pink Chevvy, a move to a suburb where pipe-smokers endlessly mow lawns, a trip to a Manhattan hotel like"a five-star nick", marital troubles, and Keith's death in a car crash. Creditors enter the stage menacingly singing of financial contracts with "small print, big words". Husbands, some abusive, enter and leave Viv's life. Castleford remains envious and grudging.And Dickson's melancholy, dignified Viv realises all might have been well if fortune have never swept her and Keith from their two-up, two-down.
A bit predictable? A sex-discovery number produces some outre moments, including one in which Viv finds herself bizarrely fondling the pectorals of a near-naked fireman, but there could, I suppose, be much more inventiveness. Yet the show makes its point about roots and class and those awful English things with neither too much sentiment nor too little fun. You end up feeling that, whatever her regrets, Viv Nicholson was and is a force for life - and of how many people can you say that?"
'FINANCIAL TIMES' - 1999 (Review by Ian Shuttleworth)
...Spend Spend Spend is a musical, and it is the most glorious new musical I can ever recall seeing. It does not trivialise or exploit Nicholson's story for its own ends; even as the physical abuse by her father and two of her five husbands are turned into song, the sympathy and heart which pervade the evening are undeniable. The "yes, I've been through all this and I'm still here" defiance it projects is not a theatrical concoction, but the blunt Yorkshire directness of Nicholson's own character...
Barbara Dickson is magnificent as "Viv now", constantly on stage and commenting upon the fortunes and events experienced by Rachel Leskovac's chirpy, chippy Young Viv; as the eight score-draws on the pools coupon are musically counted out, Dickson's Viv clearly does not know whether to laugh with joy or cry with bitter hindsight.
Sams' direction, as so often, strikes a wonderful balance between the emotional core of the show and an exuberant presentation. Spend Spend Spend fully deserves to join Blood Brothers as a working-class "up yours" fixture among West End musicals, both for its innate qualities and because of its too-long-denied attitude to Nicholson: simply, it pays her respect.
'DAILY TELEGRAPH' - OCTOBER 1999 (Review by Charles Spencer)
'Spend, Spend, Spend' was first seen last year at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, when it already looked like a winner. The score, by Steve Brown, is packed with memorable tunes ranging from G&S pastiche through stirring folk to pure pop.
The lyrics, by Browne 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.
...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.
Both Vivs sing superbly, particularly when they join forces on the show's anthemic 'Who's Gonna Love Me?', a hit if ever I heard one. Listen out too for 'Scars Of Love', a hauntingly sad melody that captures the hurt at the heart of passion.
'Spend Spend Spend' is popular entertainment at its best, devod of the cynical contrivance of so many musicals and blessed with heart, humour and irresistible humanity.
'DAILY MIRROR' - 1999 (Review by Tony Purnell)
Making a song and dance of someone else's misfortune is a tricky business as you don't know whether to laugh or cry. The rags-to-riches-to-rags story of '60s Pools winner Viv Nicholson is a cautionary tale for anyone lucky enough to land the jackpot in the National Lottery. Set to music it is also a cracking night out.
"Spend, spend, spend!" was the reply of the Yorkshire housewife when asked what she planned to do with her £152,000 win (about £3 million today).
Rachel Leskovac is dynamite as young Viv who blows the lot. Barbara Dickson tugs at the heartstrings as middle-aged Viv whose fairytale turned sour. And Steven Houghton is on top form as one of Viv's five husbands.
Alternately funny and sad, the show is bright, bubbly and unashamedly British. Cheer, cheer, cheer.
SPEND SPEND SPEND (1999 - 2001)
'THE TIMES' - 1999 (Review by Benedict Nightingale)
Can you imagine a lottery winner nowadays being as gloriously blunt about her winnings as Viv Nicholson in 1961? When success in the pools brought her £152,319, or £3 million in today's brass, this Castleford miner's wife told the nation's hacks she would "spend, spend, spend". And she was so true to her word that within a few years she was what one of Steve Brown and Justin Greene's splendidly lively songs sums up as "spent, spent, spent".
Since the lady herself was and reportedly still is a peppy, attractive sort, and since stories of riches to rags are at least as engrossing as those of rags to riches, it is no wonder that Brown and Greene thought her biography a sound basis for a musical. With its blend of warmth, Yorkshire grit and occasional pathos, its excellent lyrics and general tunefulness, 'Spend, Spend, Spend' at the Piccadilly fully justifies their belie
Actually it gives us two Vivs. One is Barbara Dickson, a pink overall draped over her fake-zebra blouse. She wryly watches her former self from the stance