Posts Tagged ‘Viva’

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.

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 ‘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.

For more information contact:

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: ‘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