Featuring Stratford's own Anika Johnson as Sporty Spice, Wannabe: A Spice Girls Tribute will be hitting the stage at the Avon Theatre on Oct. 1 in support of the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective.
Stratford-area fans of ’90s British pop sensation The Spice Girls will have the opportunity to revisit their youth when Wannabe: A Spice Girls Tribute takes the stage at the Avon Theatre this fall in support of the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective.
The brainchild of a group of friends and Toronto-based performers, including Stratford native Anika Johnson, Wannabe has been thrilling audiences with their giant personalities, mega-watt singing voices, spot-on choreography, authentic costumes, English accents and platform shoes for the past decade.
“We’re all a group of best friends, and the core group of us – Barbara Johnston, Suzy Wilde and I – had started playing in band together when we were in university. … We got the idea (for Wannabe) originally from some friends of ours who had a Daft Punk tribute band … and they were selling out shows across Canada. So we thought, ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool. What could we do live that would give people that same burst of excitement?'” said Johnson, who grew up in Stratford and moved to Toronto to attend Ryerson Theatre School, where she met her two collaborators.
“We landed on the Spice Girls, which almost sounded like a joke in the beginning. Of course, we all grew up listening to them … but I don’t think we had any idea just how quickly it would take off.”
After selling out their first show in Toronto and gaining national media attention, Johnson said the tribute group’s popularity – and the excitement around their shows – has continued to snowball.
Johnson, who performs as Sporty Spice, is joined on stage by Wilde as Posh Spice, Johnston as Ginger Spice, Johnston’s sister, Catharine Merriam, as Baby Spice, and Jaz Fairy J. Simone as Scary Spice.
While their show, which will be split into two 45-minute sets at the Avon Theatre starting at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 1, focuses on some of the Spice Girls’ biggest hits like Wannabe and Spice Up Your Life, Johnson says it’s as much about the Spice Girls characters as it is the music.
“One thing that is very exciting about this show is it’s the opening date of a two-month tour that we’re beginning on Oct. 1, so we’re playing something like 31 shows across Canada and United States, and Stratford is going to be the first,” Johnson said. “So we’re putting a lot of work to make sure it’s as tight a show as possible. We’ll have costume changes, accents. We try to reference our favourite parts from iconic concerts they’ve done in the past.
“We have a script all the way through where we do funny little bits in between songs. I feel the Spice Girls weren’t just about the music, but sort of about their personalities and what it felt like to hang out with them. So more than anything, we try to host a dance party and a gathering that is as joyful and funny and optimistic as possible.”
After expenses, all proceeds from the Wannabe show will go to support the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective, a group of more than 30 Stratford arts and culture organizations and independent artists, as they work toward establishing an affordable and accessible performance space and arts and culture centre at Copperlight, formerly known as Knox Presbyterian Church.
“We are in the process of planning with the architect around what the (Copperlight auditorium) is going to look like,” said Stratford Arts and Culture Collective co-chair Chris Leberg, whose daughter is close friends with Johnson and has known the Wannabe performer since she was a little girl. “We are looking at a stage, lighting, chairs, sound. All of that costs money, so everything we raise from that fundraiser will go toward helping us with that project. .. We’re trying to furnish the auditorium at Copperlight so that it will be an affordable performing-arts centre for the people in this community, whether they’re professional or amateur.”
Just more than a week after tickets for Wannabe: A Spice Girls Tribute went on sale, Leberg said seats are selling fast. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca/WhatsOn/PlaysandEvents/LeasedEvents/Wannabe.