Posts Tagged ‘The Brook Soham’

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

Review of Viva’s production of ‘Shakers’ in the Brook, Soham on Thursday 9th February 2017

February 9, 2017

Viva’s performance of ‘Shakers’ in the Brook at Soham on Thursday night was fantastic. This was a first night production, yet the four stunning actresses launched into their amusing scenarios immediately with confidence, gusto and skill. These highly talented actresses were Kerry Hibbert (as Nicki), Jenny Tayler-Surridge (Carol), Cassie Rouse (Mel) and Maddie Palmer (Adele). They played a group of disillusioned waitresses working at ‘Shakers’ , a supposed up-market cocktail bar, so realistically that we could empathise with them immediately.

Every nuance of humour, sarcasm and pathos was expressed and even when portraying crude, sex-obsessed blokes eyeing up the girls, these actresses never lost a moment and we were there in the 80’s witnessing the quirky characters and customs of the time, be they party girls, snooty media types, trendy snobs or ignorant slobs, they were very much the role(s) they were playing. Their poignant, tear-jerking monologues created contrasting moments of depth and insight into the emotions and turmoil that their characters suffered. The acting here was superb.

David Tickner lived up to his name as a first-rate director and with an excellent team of workers managed to pull off yet another fantastic production by this amazing company. More please!

There are two more performances of ‘Shakers’ on Friday the 10 and Saturday 11th February.

The next Viva production to look forward to is ‘Legally Blond’ from the 1st to the 4th March 2017



Review of Viva’s production of ‘Sweeney Todd’ on Saturday 18th June 2016 at the Brook in Soham

June 25, 2016

Viva’s production of ‘Sweeney Todd’ at the Brook in Soham was a fine production. Stephen Sondhiem’s musicals can be quite challenging and this was no exception, but as expected, Viva rose to the occasion magnificently. The plot had delightful twists, the characters were all credibly portrayed and the music, often quite complex, was splendidly presented. Sweeney Todd (played by Richard Dodd) was an imposing ex- convict obsessed with revenge and easily capable of multiple murders. MRS Lovett (Samantha Gallop) was an excellent partner in crime and Judge (David Tickner) was the very epitome of a high and mighty and corrupt judge. The Beggar woman (Angela Bocking) shaped her body into a figure I swear I have seen begging in London, even when among the audience she never lost the character. She managed to create a real sense of sinister insight touched with melodramatic madness. Joanna (Zara Minns) and Anthony (Daniel Lane) were notable stars in the show, their singing particularly impressive and their skilful acting readily portraying their courtship thwarted with mishap. Other believable characters included Beadle (Andy Ward), Tobias (Jordan Thorpe) and Pirelli (Charlie Gillett).

The ensemble supported the action particularly well with their strong unswerving voices and their wonderfully choreographed movements and the orchestra enhanced the singing and atmosphere admirably.

The Director Gail Baker and Musical Directors, Richard Hayward and Graham Brown and choreographer Jessica Clifford are to be congratulated for yet another real hit by Viva. This could not have been possible without the tremendous input of Joshua Schumann (producer), Dan Schumann (Associate Director), and the host of other contributors.

The next Viva show to look forward to is ‘The Little Mermaid’ at St. Andrew’s Church in Soham from Thursday 14th July to Saturday 16th July tel: Box office (01353) 722 228

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 of Viva’s production of ‘Abigail’s Party’at The Brook, Soham, on Friday 5th June 2014

June 6, 2015

Every line a cutting insinuation, Abigail’s Party is one of those unforgettable plays that have you squirming in your seat in sympathy with the characters. Script writer Mike Leigh certainly knows how to throw a verbal punch.

The acting in this production was superb – how each character managed to convey such venom or embarrassment beneath the seemingly banal conversation was amazing.  Every person held your attention. The astute direction by Emma Moat and Maggie Brackenridge had you focusing on the recipients as much as the speakers, who, with careful timing and changes of tone expressed the underlying innuendo of their lines perfectly.

Bev (played by Sarah Dowd-Crosby) with her affected voice and duplicitous comments, was the epitome of the self orientated wife and worst best friend. Her manipulation of her husband and her guests, her one-step-too-far barbed remarks and explicit flirtatious behaviour were pivotal to the tension that emanated from the stage.

Her long suffering husband, Laurence (David Moat), working day and night, constantly at Bev’s beck and call was bound to explode one day and his downfall was inevitable.

Ange (Kirsten Martin) flopped down in the sofa and relaxed for the evening, oblivious to much of the veiled malice that was going on and was quite carefree about her husband and Bev thoroughly enjoying their sensuous ‘dancing’ as they all but smooched together to Bev’s favourite music.

Tony (played by John Bedford) was a wonderful monosyllabic husband, who, given half a chance might have enjoyed himself but ensconced in this suffocating atmosphere could only express a turmoil of emotions in clipped single word answers. The tone and timing of his delivery told us all.

Sue (played by Rania Kurdi) was an exact contrast to Bev, demurely dressed, obviously ill at ease with the excessive drinking and unhinged comments. It was fascinating to watch this actress convey so clearly and realistically and in such a minimalistic way that Sue was there under sufferance because her teenage daughter Abigail was having a party and had ‘asked’ her mother to leave. Every uncertainty Sue suffered and every tragic detail of her life was brought out into the open and insensitively aired and explored by Bev and Ange.

With this powder keg set ready to go the final spectacular scene brought things to its expected dramatic end.

With strong support from the crew, this was indeed a splendid production – well worthy of the message of good wishes from Alison Steadman.

The next production by Viva to enjoy is ‘Avenue Q’ at The Brook, Soham from the 17th to the 19th June 2015.

Review of Perry Dennis and the Twilight Shadows at the Brook Soham on Saturday 20th July 2013

July 26, 2013


The tribute to Cliff Richard by Perry Dennis and the Twilight Shadows brought a wonderful sense of déjà vu in the Brook on Saturday. Thanks to Perry and the band, ‘Summer Holiday’, ’Living Doll’, ‘Congratulations’ and a host of other Cliff Richard numbers inspired us to relive those heady days at the clubs in our youth and the dance floor on this night was packed in similar style.

Perry Dennis and the Twilight Shadows are amazing entertainers and on this warm summer’s evening they wowed the audience with a steady flow of Cliff’s hits. Numbers like ‘In the country’, ‘C’mon Everyboday’, ‘Bachelor Boy’, ’When the girl in your arms’ and ‘Do you wanna dance’ had us transfixed . The band on their own brought alive memorable numbers like ‘Apache’, ‘Wonderful Land’ and ‘F.B.I’. Few favourites were left out of this night’s revelry.

The lead singer, Perry Dennis, knew how to play the audience and his fantastic voice captured the spirit of the songs perfectly. The band members played their parts to perfection. Pete Savage was a ‘mean’ lead guitar, Mark Jackson kept a toe-tapping feel on rhythm, Jay Hartop on bass set our hearts racing, especially in ‘Nimrod’, Paul Marsall amazed us with the excitement he created on drums and Rik Keys had some great moments on keyboard and guitar. These were not just talented instrumentalists; they also managed to add an amazing variety of authentic vocals, some way out of their natural voice range.

Billy G, who will be appearing at the Brook again on 17th August, provided a great warm up and sang a number of pop songs of other idols, including the unforgettable Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly.

This was a great evening.

The event was raising funds for Lisa’s Fund in aid of the Arthur Rank House Charity and Robert Barnes was able to announce that the total he has raised in all for the Arthur Rank Hospice is £78,000 so far!

For more information about the performers contact

Rosemary Westwell

A review of ‘Stepping Out’ presented by Viva Theatre Company at The Brook, Soham

November 13, 2012

Viva Theatre Company’s production of Richard Harris’s ‘Stepping Out’ was a most welcome and entertaining diversion from our usual wintry afflictions. From the start the stage came alive, not necessarily from the tap dancing, but from the exuberance of the tap dance enthusiasts gathered for their weekly class under the directorship of Mavis (played by Mary Barnes) accompanied by the prickly pianist Mrs Fraser (Helen Hawes). As the play progressed, the characters blossomed, tensions developed, and soon we were thoroughly involved in their diverse lives and difficulties.

The script was cleverly designed and we gradually learned more about the characters and we could easily relate to the shenanigans that went on in this group of keen amateurs. Delightful one-liners were expertly timed to produce streams of laughter from the audience. Our favourite group members were all there: – The ‘superior than thou’ Vera (Esther Hiller) who managed to rile everyone with her tactless questions, comments and actions. Who else would say to the struggling plump dancer on benefits (Sylvia played by Kirsten Martin) “I used to be fat once.”?

One of the most captivating characters was Maxine (Sarah Dowd Crosby) who held the group together and soon brought Vera down to size by suggesting she take her to buy second-hand clothes. Dorothy (Tracey Summers) and her bike, the shy down-trodden Andy (Lesley Wood), the highly entertaining Rose (Radha Cardwell), the brave sole male in the troupe Geoffrey (Scott Robertson) and two Sugar Plum Fairies (Claudia Stein-Carr and Sue Lord) completed the dancers.

The success of this production came from a sense of team cohesion and realistic dialogue and responses that were no doubt encouraged and developed by the Director Annie Cook. The production was also assisted by Stage Manager David Moat, Choreographer Lizzie Bendall and Followspot Operator Lou Murray. This was indeed a wonderful show. I eagerly await the next Viva production.

Review: Prime Time Murder, Viva Theatre Company 20th October 2011

October 22, 2011

Viva Theatre’s production of ‘Prime Time Murder’ had all the requirements of a good night’s entertainment. The cast knew their jobs. The characters were clearly defined. The action moved smoothly and realistically. Michael Burrell’s script was deliciously savoured, especially the witticisms and strings of ‘one-liners’.

The audience became an integral part of the set immediately as they found themselves seated in a ‘TV studio’ during the recording of a game show called ‘If the cap fits’. At appropriate moments the audience was asked to vote as individuals, holding up their ‘if the cap fit cards’ when they thought a particular description of the background of a person matched the name given.  In others’ hands, such activity could have easily detracted from the dramatic events on stage, but with this team, it became a natural and effective ingredient.

Central to the plot was the arrogant Game Show Host Jimmy Roscoe (played by Jon Bridgeman). His narcissism, meanness and history as a sexual predator darkened a script that was packed with the jaded banter of studio staff trying to overcome the inevitable in-fighting of such a tightly-knit community. The Director, Mary Haskins (Jenny Aspland), did indeed ‘direct’ proceedings and her calm authoritative voice brought sense and structure to a group of varied, sensitive beings.

Jackie (Delia Tickner), the Production Assistant, was everywhere, cheerfully battling to keep order relieving the tensions of her job with crowning moments of dry humour.

A delightful array of contestants enlivened events: Terrence Rainer (Lee Sherwood) and his macho crassness contrasted well with celebrity guest Veronica Mellows (Ann Pallet).  More spice was added by Susan Barnold (Sara Lang), a well-focused driving test examiner, and the erudite Professor Humphrey Blethyn (David Tickner) pontificated wonderfully.

Events were further enhanced with Veronica’s two squabbling children Tom (Philip Evans) and Lucy Emily Palmer). Tom’s ‘look’ at the end of the show was priceless. Vision Mixer Michelle (Kim Turner), the calm assuredness of Inspector Wormald (David Moat) and his obliging constable PC Butterfield (Scott Robertson) and Studio Security (Josh Schunmann) were also essential contributors.

One of the most entertaining characters for me was undoubtedly the Make-up Artist, Susan Roach (Esther Hiller). Her naïve timidity and heartfelt outbursts as events turned out quite differently to those she had expected were portrayed magnificently. She was indeed one of the best of an outstanding cast.

Producer David Tickner is to be congratulated for a fine show supported by an excellent team, namely: Costumes (Lynn Quelch), Lighting and Sound (Nigel and Simon Thompson), Cameraman (Steve Evans), Box Office (Martha Waterhouse and June Lawrence) and Publicity (Alison Palmer and Oliver Waterhouse).

Viva Theatre’s expected participation in theRSCOpen Stages project with a production of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ at Anglesey Abbey next July is a fitting complement to their admirable achievement tonight.


Rosemary Westwell

Review: Viva’s production of ‘The Importance of being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde at the Brook Soham Friday 16th October 2010

October 19, 2010

Oscar Wilde’s wit never ceases to make us smile and in Viva Theatre Company’s production of his play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, Oscar was indeed always present.  The clarity of diction, inflection and delivery of the actors gave every ‘one-liner’ its full value. There was hardly a moment without the audience spontaneously laughing in recognition of his unique observations of life, courtship and marriage. Although the play is set in times gone by, it was quite relevant to the present and the audience knew it.

Daniel Schumann’s impressive work as Director was very much in evidence. This was a smooth-running, delightful production. ‘Algy’ (played by Joshua Schumann) was a real toff, his attractive eyes full of mischief, his gestures sweeping and grand. He teased his friend ‘Jack’ (or ‘Ernest’) (Darren Smith) mercilessly.  Jack soon involved the audience in his emotional confusion as life seemed to deliver him blow after blow, starting with Algy preventing him from proposing to his ward, Gwendolen (Kirsten Green). Gwendolen and Cecily (Hannah Goodger) were a pair of beautiful young ladies with the ability to charm, sooth or fight with real venom as their love lives were thwarted time and again.  Central to the ups and downs of these characters and their relationships was the importance of the name ‘Ernest’. Lady Augusta Bracknell (Esther Hiller) enunciated her words to perfection as the domineering and meddling ‘Lady’. We waited with bated breath for her indignant words ‘a handbag?’ when she was told that the suitor for her daughter Cecily’s hand in marriage did not know his parents and had been found in a handbag at Victoria Station. She did not let us down, the words rang out delightfully with righteous incredulity.

 Dr Frederick Chasuble (David Tickner) pontificated in a most affectatious manner, just like those over-seasoned vicars we recognise from times past. David also made an admirable butler (Lane). Miss Prism (Delia Tickner) easily became the lovable, pivotal character who tried to tutor her wayward pupil Cecily but was easily side-tracked by her affections for the vicar. However, finally she was the one who solved the mystery of the baby in the handbag and it was soon discovered that Jack’s name was really Ernest and all was well.  Daniel, needless to say, caught servant Merriman’s disdain perfectly.

With the support of producer  Sarah Dowd and an excellent crew, this production was a wonderful success.

If you are interested in becoming involved with this delightful company you are invited to attend the AGM on Thursday 4th November 2010 7.30 pm in the Drama Studio, Beechurst, Soham Village College.