Posts Tagged ‘Dan Schumann’

Review of ‘Legally Blonde’ by Viva at the Brook, Soham on Thursday 2nd March 2017

March 3, 2017

Viva dazzled us yet again with another vibrantly energized musical production in the Brook last night. It was fantastic! ‘Legally Blonde’ was no simple story about a blonde girl proving her worth, it was packed with humour, pathos and easily identifiable characterizations as blonde girl becomes a lawyer learning many home truths on the way.

The music was first class, all singers and instrumentalists producing clear, resonant and wholesome sounds enhancing the plot beautifully while excellent acting, slick staging, glitzy choreography, credible costumes and subtle and effective lighting had us spellbound.

Ellie (played by Riley Williams) portrayed this leading part perfectly making a wonderful debut with Viva. She was indeed the stunning face of feminine feminism. The men in her life, Warner (Dan Lane) and Emmett (Ben Clark) were equally well rounded characters:  Warner the wimp from the past: Emmett the stalwart friend waiting in the wings for her to realize he was where her heart should lie. The cold-hearted egotist Callahan (Joseph Beach) contrasted excellently with Paulette (Eleanor Gillet), the emotionally-driven, moral supporter to Ellie. With Ellie’s excellent doe-eyed hankering and Paulette’s outrageous sexual shimmering we were left in no doubt whom they desired. I’ve never seen such a sexy delivery man before the UPS man (Lee Sherwood) strutted the stage. He made a larger-than-life gay lover to the untruthful witness Yuri (Jack Wright) too. The exercise motivator Brooke (Hannah Schumann), another strong character and the essential Greek Chorus were additional treats. Space prevents me from mentioning all the other superb members of the cast, suffice to say, they all contributed magnificently to one of the best Viva productions I’ve ever seen! Director and Producer Dan Schumann and his team are to be congratulated for such a wonderful evening.

As all evening shows were soon booked out, you are advised to book early for their next production ‘The Dreaming’ in the Hayward Theatre, Ely 3-5th August 2017.

contact 01353 722228


Viva’s production of ‘Made in Dagenham’ at The Brook on Friday 29th July 2016

July 31, 2016

Viva’s production of ‘Made in Dagenham’ at The Brook on Friday certainly lived up to Viva’s high reputation and the added excitement that this show was being prepared for the Edinburgh Fringe certainly enhanced the drama of the true story of how women were finally granted equal pay.

My favourite characters were Rita (played by Kerry Hibbet), Eddie (Ben Clark), Monty (David Tickner), Clare (Hannah Schumann), Mr Hopkins (Josh Schumann) and Tooley (Dan Lane). Of course all the characters were very well presented, the singing was highly commendable and the stage movement lively and entertaining.

Rita was highly credible as a young factory worker forced to become centre stage in the fight for equal pay by the women. Her husband Eddie was a real heart throb and his transition through the difficulties he had to face as his wife became more important in the outside world of politics, was smooth and easy to identify with. Monty was the epitome of the long suffering boss of the workers, piggy in the middle between them and the management and in contrast to the posh out-of-touch senior manager Mr Hopkins, while the brash Americanism of Tooley was deliciously unmistakeable. Clare’s problem with finding the right words and the worker characteristics of Beryl (Sarah Shorney) and Sandra (Nadia Saif) were delightful. Other vital characters included Harold Wilson and Mr Hubble (Frank Crosby), Barbara Castle (Jenny Surridge), Cass (Tracey Summers), Sid (Joe Turner), Barry/Cortina (Jack Wright), Stan (Chris Bonini), Mrs Hopkins (Donna Kitching) and Mr Buckton and Mr Macer (Geoff Fisher).

The ensembles made the almost non-stop colourful tableaux of the production come alive, the acting, singing and movements of the participants a vital and integral part of the drama.

Once again, director and producer, Daniel Schumann, his crew and all those who contributed to the production are to be congratulated for a splendid evening and wonderful show.

I look forward to hearing of their success at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Viva will be putting on a production of ‘The Lady in the Van’ in November this year and ‘Legally Blond’ in March next year.

For more information contact:

Review of Viva’s ‘Evita’ at The Brook in Soham on Thursday 10th March 2016

March 21, 2016

For all its popularity, ‘Evita’, lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is no easy musical to produce but knowing Viva was presenting it, success was assured and indeed it was a very powerful and effective show. However, this success was  not only due to the expertise of the young people performing, Viva had the ghastly calamity that all amateur shows must fear – the lead singer, Evita (Becky Bush), developed laryngitis a few nights before the opening night.  Did they panic or even cancel the show? Not a bit of it and with all the panache of a professional theatrical company,’ the show must go on’, the clichéd cry of all thespians, was fulfilled. The hero of the day – the director / producer and the founder of Viva – Dan Schumann – came to the rescue and at only a few day’s notice rang round his contacts in London and discovered Katie Shearman, who stepped in at the breech. She stood in with the band and sang the part perfectly, while Becky showed real talent as an actress and played her role faultlessly, miming the words while Katie sang. You would hardly have known that there had been a problem.

The band accompaniment, acting, singing, dancing, choreography, sound, lights, set, costumes, videos – you name it, were spot on. Ben Clarke, with a phenomenal singing voice, was a believable cynic ‘Che’ commenting on the rise of Eva Perón. Lee Sherwood was the epitome of the strong dictator Perón, Zara Minns gave a moving performance of a heart-broken mistress while Daniel Lane was the swathe seductive but callous singer Magaldi, Eva’s first ‘love’.

The depth of feeling, the brilliant colour and grace of chic upper class Buenos Aires, the upright tenor of the generals, the potency of the ensembles and the wow factor of the little children all helped shape a memorable show. An undercurrent of intrigue and struggle for political power and the determination of Eva to reach the dizzy heights of world fame were ever-present. They all integrated seamlessly into the whirlwind action on stage that swept us off our feet and into the realms of political Argentina.

This was indeed a highly powerful and mesmerising show worthy of any professional group. It was hard to believe that this was an ‘amateur’ show.

For more information about this amazing group see:

Review of Viva’s production of  ‘Half a Sixpence’ at the Brook on Wednesday  29th July 2015

July 31, 2015

When it’s a Viva production, you know it’s going to be good and ‘Half a Sixpence’ lived up to all expectations. The acting, singing  and dancing were delightful as were the costumes, scenery and accompaniment. Tommy Steele look-alike, Charlie O’Connor, was very much the Cockney boy Kipps, uncertain of his destiny, his feelings and his place. Kipps thought he loved his childhood sweetheart, Ann (played by Rebecca Storey) but when his luck came in and he was suddenly very rich, he was overwhelmed with the glamour of the upper class and became engaged to Helen (Zara Minns). Helen’s brother ‘Walsingham’ (Dan Lane) and her mother Mrs Walsingham  (Anthea Kenna) created a family from hell: Walsingham  ruined Kipps financially and Mrs Walsingham was the epitome of the tyrannical mother-in-law. After a fantastic row with her, Kipps finally worked out that it was Ann he loved. They married and eventually came to realize that love conquers all, even money.

This whole story was beautifully told and the performers’ natural talent shone through. The action developed seamlessly, with actors transfixing the audience with exquisitely sung  solos, duets and ensembles. Joining them often were amazing groups of dancers. Choreographer, Louise Plummer, inspired many intricate and intriguing steps that were neatly executed, never once losing the flow of the beat. Mr Chitterlow (played by David Tickner) was a splendid over-the-top thespian who enjoyed a little too much of the drink and  Mr Shalford (David Moat) made his staff quake with his despotic and mean ways until he had his comeuppance near  the end.

This was a fantastic production which should do extremely well at the Edinburgh Fringe. Dan Schumann (Director), Stephen Kenna (Musical Director) and this amazing team of dedicated performers and supporters are to be congratulated for yet another resounding success.

The next production to look forward to is ‘A Christmas Carol’ 3rd to 5th December and St. Andrew’s Church, Soham. Tickets available from September.

for more information, contact (01353) 722 228

Rosemary Westwell

Review: ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ A Viva Youth Production at The Brook Soham Thurs 6th March 14

March 14, 2014

Viva Youth never ceases to amaze me. Although they are ‘amateur’ performers, there was nothing ‘amateurish’ about the production I saw last night. It was fantastic – every bit as good as the London production I had seen previously. Even more so, these performers have a special freshness and vitality that is often missing from the more commercially-driven enterprises in the big cities. We are very fortunate to have this thriving company in our midst.

With the theatre decorated appropriately, we were immediately made to feel that we were part of the production, sitting in furnished seats, decorative lighting above. When the action started, we knew this was not going to be just a string of the popular songs, this was real acting. The story progressed wonderfully, creating spine-chilling moments that contrasted well with episodes of poignant, impassioned romance. One of the highlights for me was the duet between Christine and Raoul. It was unforgettable.

Duncan Earlam as the Phantom was a great substitute for Michael Crawford. His powerful voice with its seductive nuances and his creepy actions trying to seduce the innocent Christine made his part come alive. Lauriane Borde was a superb Christine, her beautiful voice rising splendidly to those chilling high notes, the emotions of her impossible situation always present. Ben Clerk as Raoul was also fantastic. His mature rich tone and authentic role-play were unsurpassable. Another splendid performer was Laura Day as the spiteful Diva Carlotta. She somehow managed to alter her wonderful voice just enough to give it that shrill edge that befitted Carlotta exactly. Charlie Gillet made a delightfully entrenched Italian opera singer as Piangi, and Lee Sharwood ( Firmin) and Phil Evans (Andre) were deliciously gung-ho, insensitive new owners. There was no nonsense from Madam Giry played by Ellie Bovingdon and Rebecca Storey gave the character of Meg genuine credibility and substance.

The large ballet chorus and ensemble enhanced the production with well-focused and tuneful voices, managing faultlessly some very tricky passages. The choreography, as expected, was excellent too. Much of the atmosphere was created by the superb band of musicians. The band with Musical Director Stephen Kenna tackled this mammoth, challenging score effortlessly and the long list of the crew, led by Producer and Director Dan Schumann, are to be congratulated for an amazing West –End type production. This, surely, will be impossible to top – we look forward to their next production which will be ‘Les Miserables’ in July. It should be well worth attending

Review of The Sound of Music by Viva Theatre in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on Thursday 28th February 2013

March 3, 2013

We’ve all seen the film of ‘The Sound of Music’- possibly a number of times, so presenting this as a live local production in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral, renowned for its delayed responses, was a mammoth task. However, Director and Producer, Dan Schumann and his team managed to pull it off with great success and the show I saw tonight was fantastic. It had all the ingredients of a good production and even though I knew what to expect of the story, the way it was presented and the talent of the performers made the show just as entertaining as the first time I saw it.

Maria (played by Shellie Baigent) was delightful. Her sparkling demeanour, her beautiful singing and dancing and her fine acting filled the role magnificently. Mother Abbess (Anthea Kenna) was even better than the one in the film. This Abbess had a mature voice just right for the part and her acting and stage presence made her one of the most credible performers. Other strong characters included the plastic-smiling Baroness Elsa (Jenny Surridge), Baron Von Trapp’s children Liesl (Ellie Bovingdon), Brigitta (Tarryn Richardson),Louisa (Holly Marsden), Marta (Zara Minns), Frederick (Ben Howard), Kurt (Lawrence Whitworth) and Gretl  (Lola Macdonald). Rolf (Duncan Earlham) and Herr Zeller (Charlie Ellerton) were also highly commendable.  David Tickner made a charismatic Max, Jon Bridgeman a fine Captain Von Trapp, Naomi Porter an efficient Schmidt, Ben Clark an outstanding Franz and David Moat a believable Admiral. The nuns provided excellent moments of ecclesiastical worth and the subtle differences of character were particularly effective especially between Sister Margaretta (Hetti Wood),  Sister Berthe (Lesley Wood) and Sister Sophia (Emily Palmer).  Indeed there was not a single ‘awkward’ moment in this memorable production which was all the better for being positioned in the Lady Chapel with its distinctive windows in the background. The strong sounds and firm harmonies the nuns as a whole produced in their liturgical music added to the authenticity.

The singing, acting, dancing and choreography were all admirable. With minimal instruments Stephen Kenna and musicians Oselayo Ojuri (percussion) and Alan Grayer (Bass), the Lady Chapel was filled with appropriate accompaniment. Stephen’s musical expertise brought out an amazing variety of sounds from his single keyboard which became a chamber orchestra (even the authentic-sounding strings) or a church organ in full blast when required.

Yet again, Viva is to be congratulated for a wonderful evening’s entertainment.       

Rosemary Westwell

review Viva’s Beauty and the Beast in Ely

February 6, 2010

There is no need to go to the West End for good quality productions. Soham-based Viva Company has got all that it takes to produce a sparkling and vibrant show packed with talented performers. Viva’s production of Beauty and at Beast at the Maltings in Ely filled the stage with a kaleidoscope of enthralling episodes as the familiar plot developed. The characters soon came to life as an array of ensembles swept across the stage or up the aisles, interweaving faultlessly with movements that captured the substance of the drama.  

Although I have seen many of these young performers appear in different productions over the years, it took some time to recognize a number of them beneath the cover of exceptional make up, costumes and most important of all, characterization. Their youthful shapes changed drastically in stature, movement, voice and gesture to become credible characters in this familiar story.

The Beast (played by Ralph Watts) howled and growled magnificently. Beauty or ‘Bell’ (Jessica Theobald) was a graceful, pretty and vehement young lady and with a strong affection for her inventive father Maurice (Oliver Ellerton). The developing drama swept the audience along as the spell that dehumanized the inhabitants of the Beast’s castle was eventually broken. The arrogance and vanity of Gaston (James Mellor) matched perfectly the highly entertaining antics and humour of Lefou (Daniel Bell). Lumiere (Joshua Schumann) made a deliciously sexy set of candlesticks with a perfect French accent; (I know this for a fact, because my companion was French). Lumiere’s  attraction to Babette (Naomi Rogers) certainly spiced things up and the straight-jacketed Cogsworth (Mikey Kowalczyk) was the epitome of frustrated officiousness. The thwarted attempts of faded opera singer Madame de la GrandeBouche (Ellie Gillett) and the amazing teapot (Mrs Potts played by Shellie Baigent) and her little Chip in a tea cup (Lawrence Whitworth) brought a touch of homeliness to the otherwise sinister castle. Other key contributors were the evil Monsieur D’Arque, Enchantress (Beth Henderson), Dance Captain (Kat Hickmott) and a bunch of ‘silly’ girls (Robyn Howe, Karina Locke, Lucy Bell, Susannah Martin and Debbie Olaifa).

The solo singing and choruses were first-rate and the choreography, stage movements and timing were impeccable. Gaston (James Mellor) had a particularly impressive voice. 

An excellent orchestra added to the overall impression that this was indeed a highly professional production thanks to the expert directorship of Dan Schumann and his team. Costumes, scenery, lighting, pyrotechnic effects and front of house were all magnificent contributions to a fantastic show.

It is no wonder that the three performances were fully booked. 

Aspiring performers should audition in March for Viva’s production of Godspell that will take part in the Edinburgh Festival from 7-14th August 2010. Contact: Martha at Viva tel (01353) 722228. For further information contact

Rosemary Westwell