Posts Tagged ‘Viva’

A review of Viva’s ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’ in the Ross Peers Sports Centre on Thursday 11th July 2019

July 16, 2019

Most of us remember being that awkward age of 17, feeling that no one understood what we felt like and believing that we were alone with our worries and problems that were all important at that age.

This production brought all of these thoughts back to us with uninhibited frankness and humour. Nothing, but nothing, was left out. It was amazing how these actors threw themselves into their parts, radiating the sheer rawness of youthful angst and preoccupation with the emotional and physical changes of a teenager. Very little was left to the imagination and topics covered were all-embracing, ranging from falling in love, infatuation, fear, inferiority, looking good and being cool, fibbing to our mates about our sexual prowess or inadequacy, frigidity, respect, betrayal, parental disapproval – it was all there. We could remember it well and there may even have been a few people who learnt something new.

The acting, singing and dancing were incredible. We were swept away with the cast’s youthful spirits. We positively lived the highs and lows of the young teenagers and the older bar manager, ‘Rubber Legs’. This amazing cast consisted of Sue, played by Zara Minns, Eric ‘Rubber Legs’ Devine (Joseph Beach), Bridge (Phoebe Noble), Rick (Olly Manley), Sharon (Riley Williames), Gary (Aaron Lord), Penny (Dresden Goodwin), Shirl (Kerry Hibbert), Terry (Ben Clarke) and Eddie (Dan Lane).

The band captured the ‘60’s sounds perfectly with many of the songs very reminiscent of ones that have remained with us over the years. These impressive musicians were:  Joseph (Keyboard), Jordan Ward (guitar) Joel Humann (bass) and Luke Pettit (drums).

Congratulations must go to the director, Joshua Schumann, Musical Director Joseph Hall, Choreographer, Jess Clifford and team for a unique and highly captivating production.

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Review of Viva’s ‘Chicago’ in the King’s Theatre Newmarket on Thursday 7th March 2019

March 10, 2019

Dan Schumann 19Wow! This production of ‘Chicago’ was amazing. The razzmatazz of Chicago in the bad old days permeated this wonderful production so that there was hardly a moment when we were not absolutely amazed. This large troupe of highly talented young people filled the stage with fantastically choreographed movements and tableaux while at the same time it delivered very powerful, toe-tapping and unforgettable music.

The singing, dancing and acting were spot on and we were very much aware of the sheer falseness of the flashy style of living in a criminally-driven society in which murder and corruption were the order of the day.

The actors were phenomenal and included murderess Velma Kelly (played by Kiera O’Reilly), the slippery lawyer, Billy Flynn (Olly Manley),brassy Roxey Hart (Riley Williams), a powerful Mamma Morton (Dresden Goodwin), and the splendid Amos (Joseph Hall), and Mary Sunshine (Katie Kirkpatrick). Other key contributors included the MC and Harry (Mark O’Reilly), Fred and Reporter (Jordan Thorpe), Fogerty and Reporter (Dyan Cardwell) and Judge (Sam Laws).

They were supported by wonderful murderesses, dancers and members of the ensemble. Best moments for me included the hard-nosed, spine-chilling Cell Block Tango, the slick, sexy dancers, and when the hollowness of the razzmatazz was made clear with well-defined sarcasm and wit.

A highly accomplished orchestra led by Richard Hayward gave outstanding support and the choreography by Jess Clifford was second to none.

What a fantastic production this was! Congratulations to the Director Dan Schumann and his team for such an exciting evening’s entertainment.

The next Viva production to look forward to is ‘Brassed Off’ from the 17th to the 20th April in the ADC Theatre, Cambridge. To order tickets:

Pictured is Dan Schumann

Review of Viva’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ on Thursday 1st November 2018 at Granary Barns, Woodditton.

November 2, 2018

Viva’s production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was splendid. This well-known story of the trials and tribulations of a Jewish family in a small village at times of hardship was brought alive under the perceptive directorship of Sarah Dowd. .

The long-suffering father, Tevye, played by Richard Dodd, tried his best to preserve the stabilizing traditions of his people but events and even his own five daughters seemed to turn against him and change his whole world irrevocably. Nevertheless, his wonderful way of coping, with his frequent Bible quotations and his private conversations with God peppered with lovely moments of humour helped us to survive the anguish and horror of events as they unfolded.

His wife Golde (Samantha Gallop) was the epitome of a Jewish housewife with too much to do fulfilling her household duties to stop and pause to think about the love she has for her husband. The banter between husband and wife was very effective and her outraged cries and variety of facial expressions were phenomenal.

The five daughters and some of their loved ones were all believable characters and we felt their anxiety as they worried about who might be their future husbands. They were Tzeitel (Dresden Goodwin) and the tailor Motel (Oliver Squires), Hodel (Phyllida Hickish) and the young revolutionary Perchik (Mark O’Reilly), Chava (Emma Gilbey) and a brave young man of a different, challenging faith Fyedka (Dylan Caldwell), Bielke (Tara Gilbey) and Sprintze (Elisha Cardwell).

Other characters that shone included the rapid-speaking, busy-body-come matchmaker Yente (Bridget Hickish) , the disappointed butcher Lazar Wolf (Frank Crosby), and the unforgettable ghosts: Grandma Tzeitel  (Alison Smith) and Fruma Sarah (Anthea Kenna).   Suffice to say the remaining characters, including the marvellous animals (especially the clucking chicken), were all highly credible and vital to the drama.

The live music created the setting perfectly. Timing, orchestration and skill made the familiar, stirring melodies memorable, ranging from the deep sorrow and warmth of ‘Anatevka’ to the uninhibited joy of ‘To Life’ and the ‘Wedding Dance’.

The chorus was strong and the harmony very moving. The dancing was delightful, the choreography developing a sense rhythmic strength and joyful abandonment that seemed oblivious to the small stage.

Different scenes developed some mesmerising atmospheres, especially the opening fiddler playing on the roof, the family’s celebration of the Sabbath and the Tevye’s nightmare.

Costumes, scenery, lighting and sound all helped to make this a wonderful show. Sarah Dowd (Director), Maggie Brackenbridge (Producer/Stage Manager) and Jenny Taylor-Surridge (|Musical Director) and their teams are to be congratulated for such a fantastic evening’s entertainment.Viva Fiddler on the Roof 2 Y

Review of ‘Goodnight Mr. Tom’ by Viva in the Performing Arts Centre Soham Village College on Thursday 25th October 2018

October 26, 2018

Viva Keith Gallois Judith Collingswood and Alison O'ConnorIf ever there was a performance that demonstrated beyond a doubt that live theatre outshines films, it was this one. Throughout the performance we were kept spellbound. We were there with the characters, living their parts. The acting was so good that we were never divorced from the tensions and emotions of the scenes being played out before us.

Mr. Tom, played by Vaughan Moll, was the epitome of those cantankerous old men that we know so well: all thunder and bluster on the outside, all heart on the inside. William (Oscar Vaughan) was the poor child so poorly done by. We felt his pain and wonder as he was slowly drawn out of his world of trauma and abuse into a loving and meaningful relationship with his adoptive father-to- be.

Costumes, hair styles and make up were so realistic that we were easily transported into life during WW2. One minute, children were jauntily rushing out of school as if they did not have a care in the word, at others, the reality of the most gruesome factors of a country at war and a childhood lost through abuse from an unstable parent were brought home.

Other main characters that shone were Zack (Torin Fahy) the vivacious, chatty child who enlivened the villagers’ lives with his unforgettable charisma, the unhinged and abusive mother Mrs Beech (Chloe Grimes), the warm -hearted much more motherly Mrs. Fletcher (Sarah Boor), kindly Annie Hartridge (Kerry Hibertt), the heavy-smoking, and sympathetic Dr Little (David Tickner – who also made a very colourful ticket collector), the Nurse (Sue Perry) and the consultant Dr Stelton (Peter Crussell, also the vicar).  George (Daniel Allgood), Ginnie (Tabby Kirk), Carrie (Lillie Coghlin), and the evacuees all helped to establish a realistic world of children with their games and antics. The remaining characters, too numerous to mention, were all just as effective and essential to the plot although mention must be made of the puppeteers: Sienna Warder and Sophie Jones who did a splendid job.

This was an excellent production. Judith Collingswood, Keith Gallois, Alison O’Connor and their team and are to be congratulated for such a meaningful, tear-jerking show. The tissue kindly provided inside the programme was definitely needed!


a review of ‘Brassed Off’ presented by Viva in Soham on Thursday 9th November 2017.

November 10, 2017

What an excellent production it was! ‘Brassed Off’ directed by Keith Gallois and Judith Collingswood and produced by Keith and Alison O’Connor, was a magnificent show. All the characters rang true and through their fine acting we were transported into the lives of the mining families in times of trouble, sharing with them the agony of poverty and the humour needed for survival. With the superb performances by Soham Comrades Brass Band, we were treated not only to an admirable presentation of what many of us remember from the film, but the music was a splendid treat too.

David Tickner played Danny to the tee. He was indeed a band conducting fanatic. His grandson Shane (played by Alfie Peckham) was an ideal young boy acting the part with natural flair.

The main miners and band members, Jim (Steve Perry), Harry (Geoff Fisher), Phil (Darren Smith) and Andy (Will Cahill) were wonderfully ‘laddish’ and some of the best scenes that were probably some of the most difficult to present successfully, were those when the band slowly disintegrated into a cacophonous mess after the members had had a few too many drinks at each village on their tour.

The wives, Vera (Sue Perry), Rita (Mandy Morrish) and Sandra (Sophie Plachcinski) were all credible partners whose passion was evident right from the start. Gloria (Amy Noonan) was a superb representative of the powerful managers who had obviously decided to close the mine, in spite of her glowing report of how successful it could have been. Her naivety came through very well and added spice to her relationship with her old flame Andy. He was indeed a young lad with an eye for the girls and incapable of arriving to band practice on time.

A mention must go to the actor Andy Gillett who gave an unnervingly realistic portrayal of the bailiff. Other vital contributors were Bridget Hickish, Gemma Politt, Dave McCalpin, Clare Gillet, Justine Whitworth, Helen Meads, Benjamin Surridge, Ruby Fordham, Sarah Boor, and Ellie Gillett.

Congratulations to everyone who took part and provided the support that is always much needed and which was very much in evidence in this excellent production. .

This was indeed a most satisfying night’s entertainment. As one member of the audience was heard to say, ‘Who needs the West End when we have productions like this here?’


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.

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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 ‘The Lady in the Van’ in the Brook on Friday 11th November 2016

November 12, 2016

Viva’s productions are always a delight to see. ‘The Lady in the Van’ by Alan Bennett Viva produced in the Brook on Friday was no exception. There was something quite magical about this performance. Not only had the characters all been clearly defined, but careful management of pace, diction and action brought the script alive and captured the essential qualities of Alan Bennett’s style perfectly.

Key actors, the older Alan Bennett (played by Daniel White), the younger Bennett (David Blyth) and the Lady in the Van, Mary Shepherd (Mary Barnes) established an easy, credible relationship that never lost strength from the beginning. The skillful writing developed moments of down to earth reality that readily joined other more fanciful ideas. The talent of all of the actors held us right there with events. These amazingly people included the lovely ‘depressed’ Mam (Gail Baker), the caricatured up-and-coming couple Rufus (Jon Bolderson) and Pauline (Emma Moat) and the excruciatingly ‘sympathetic’ Social Worker (Kate Weekes). Other essential and effective contributions were made by Underwood (Frank Crosby), Leo Fairchild (Vaughan Moll), Lout (Scott Robertson), Miss Shepherd’s doctor (Geoff Fisher), Interviewer and Mam’s doctor(Sarah Boor), Interviewer (Emily Docwra) and Priest and ambulance man (Lars Carr). Mention should also be made of the singing coach (Sophie Plachcinski) who produced such a wonderfully realistic, natural but imperfect singing from the symbolic motley crowd that opened and closed the show.

The witty jokes and philosophic words of wisdom were invariably appreciated. Some of these gems had us laughing out loud, making the ghastly thought of having a dirty, unkempt, slightly off-key old lady park in your garden and march into your house making demands, just one of those things that can happen. As Bennett says, he thought that having someone like this taking over your life made you mark time, but no, time marks you.

Of course, as always, the support people to the production helped make it such a success: with wonderful props, scenery, costumes, lighting, sound and back and front stage arrangements.

Congratulations must go to director and producer David Moat and associate producer James Wood for such a fantastic production. This was an excellent production and it was no wonder that Friday night was sold out so soon.

You should book early when you can for their next production: ‘Shakers’ 9-11th February 2017. More information from


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.

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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