Editor-in-Chief Chelsie Henshaw and Deputy Editor Molly Schoenfeld interview the producers who created 80s Mania in a preview of the show


Chelsie and I are super excited to see 80s Mania on Saturday 30th October. How did you both come to work together, and why do you like working together?

Vikki: I was working for Greg as a singer originally in a show he had called ‘School Reunion.’ We performed 80s songs. Greg and I then fell in love!

Greg: Because we grew up in the 80s, and we had searched everywhere to go and see an 80s show where we could go and listen to 80s music or see a tribute, but all you had were Queen, Bon Jovi tributes. There was nothing that encompassed the whole 80s era. 

80’s Mania is an official long-standing premier 1980’s multi-tribute concert show. How did the idea for 80’s Mania come about?

We can remember what those songs meant to us, so that means a lot of people our age would have felt the same as well

Vikki: I was in an ABBA show as a producer, choreographer, and Greg had done a lot of 80s stuff. So we thought: we work well together, we live together, we’re both musicians, we both know how to entertain, so we’ll set this show up. We got all the hits out we could think of and put the list on the floor. Greg is the musical one and on the technical side, and I am on the creative side. I do the choreography, costumes, and direction.

We can remember what those songs meant to us, so that means a lot of people our age would have felt the same as well. So we could put this idea we had on the stage, so when people came to watch it, we knew that it had been the right choice. It has been the only 80s show of its kind for 14 years. We remain to be the original, longest running 80s show.

There was a very well-known DJ in the 80s called Mike Read; he used to do Radio on Breakfast Show in the 80s and had another show called Pop Quiz. When he came to see the show, he officially endorsed it as ‘the thing’ to see. He said it was like ‘Top of The Pops mixed with Live Aid.’

Greg: Basically we got together and we made a theatre show that we would like to go and see.

Vikki: It’s a fun night of nostalgia that takes you back to your youth. We have been to Coventry three times now.

You must be so proud of its success!

Vikki: Yes it’s hard work!

Greg: People think it’s easy, but it’s not. There’s 14 of us altogether in 80s Mania. 

Vikki: It’s a full production show with dancers, band. There’s 150 costumes in the show which I have to wash and repair.

Could you tell us a bit more about the work that went into the costumes, and what their desired effect is?

Vikki:  What we wanted to do was create an authentic tribute, so we had to look at the likes of Bananarama, Aha!, Kim Wilde, Duran. In the 80s it was all about videos, and the fashion was mental, very diverse. So what we’ve had to do is pick the most iconic looks (we’ve asked quite a lot of people things like ‘What do you remember when we mention Boy George?’). We’ve also looked at live concerts. We wanted to make sure that people identified straight away with someone on stage. Luckily, I was trained in hair and beauty so I can recreate wigs based on hairstyles. The costumes were either made to look like vintage costumes, but also 14 years ago, eBay was quite new so you would get some great bargains there. The costumes have been made to look vintage, and made to look like what the artist would have worn. The guys in the band have make-up, frilly collars, and eyeliner like the New Romantics.

Yes, so I guess the costumes give that element of nostalgia. But I guess in a way it might attract some younger members of the audience? For example, although it might not be a reminiscent experience for us, we still enjoy the culture created in those years.

Vikki: It was a culture, you’ve got the right word.

Greg: It was, it’s incredible. You’ve got to imagine a time before the internet; a time when there were four channels on the TV. We got bored when we were younger!

Vikki: This show has got a cult following. The amount of people who dress up! I would say 70% of the audience dresses up.

What musical numbers can the audience expect to hear, and how did you go about selecting them?

Greg: It concentrates mainly on the first five years, mainly European (the American road is too huge). We wanted to create a show that the UK would understand. It concentrates more on the New Romantic side. For example, Duran Duran, Aha!, Spandau Ballet, Kim Wilde. Obviously you have to go to America for your Cyndi Lauper, your Madonna. We’ve also got Blondie, Ultravox, Madness, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, SoftCell, Wham! When you come to the show, you may not know all the looks, but you will definitely know all the songs.

You also encourage audience participation, don’t you?

We try our very best to include the audience and get them involved

Greg: You couldn’t get them to sit down anyway. We try our very best to include the audience and get them involved. We know how they’re feeling when they hear the start of certain songs because we react in the same way. The good thing about the show is that it changes every three or four minutes. 

Vikki: Yeah, it’s 28 tributes in each show. And they perform over 35 hits, so backstage it’s crazy. You’ve got Adam Ant going out and then Cyndi Lauper is waiting in the wings, and then on the other side you’ve got Boy George getting his makeup on. It’s like push, push, let’s go, let’s go. And the show is all timed so there’s no stopping, it all keeps going and it’s like a jukebox of hits with visuals. And the dancers come out, and then they go back off, and then they’re getting changed, and someone else does a solo hit.

Linked to that as well, we were going to ask you a bit about the laser designs, the video projections and lighting? It sounds really interesting.

Vikki: The actual designing of it was our joint idea but obviously we’re not lighting people so our lighting guys have sat there. Every part of the show has a cue.

Greg: There’s something like 800 cues in the show.

Vikki: The lights change all the time and Greg has edited videos to play behind us – we have two massive projector screens.

Greg: But if there are dancers on, you don’t really want videos as well because it takes your eye off them.

Vikki: You need to see it to believe it. I think it is one of the biggest shows in Europe with the most costumes. We were actually going to try and get the Guiness Book of World Records, weren’t we? For the most tributes in one show and the most costumes in one show.

We were actually going to try and get the Guiness Book of World Records, weren’t we? For the most tributes in one show and the most costumes in one show

That’s impressive, especially because that’s what distinguishes the show from other tribute acts because usually it’s just the same artist, isn’t it? But there’s variation in your show and I guess that’s what gets people so excited. 

Vikki: The tickets range from about £21 to £30 and some people go ‘well that’s a lot of money’ but if you think about it, there’s 28 tributes in the show, so it’s less than a pound per tribute.

Greg: It’s the flavour, people get caught up in the whole idea of what we’re trying to do as well. The whole audience is really behind the whole show and we’re behind them. But also we want to give them the surprise element. One act goes off and then it’s a tiny blackout and then bang, something else is happening. 

This might be like asking you to pick your favourite child but what would be your favourite song from the 80s if you had to pick?

Greg: I was a big Duran fan when I was a kid so it’s probably going to be something like Rio but that’s a bit predictable though.

Vikki: I was a Duran fan. My dad was a DJ and I was so fortunate because I had access to all of the Top 40 from the age of 12 which was fantastic to me. But my dad always used to play Electric Dreams by Giorgio Moroder and that’s one of my favourite songs and it’s the one that we finish the show on as well.

You mentioned your musical backgrounds and Vikki mentioned growing up surrounded by DJ equipment – would you say you have both come from musical backgrounds or is it just something you decided to pursue?

Greg: No, not particularly a musical household at all. It was one of those things I just decided to do.

Vikki: My family – my dad was a bit of a bass player in a band and a DJ. My mum used to sing but it was only choir stuff. So no, we haven’t come from an industrial entertainment background. We’ve kind’ve just flown the nest and done our own thing. But Brad, my son, who is 22, he’s obviously in a musical family. There’s three main singers, and then we’ve got five dancers and a band with four males, and you’re [Greg] one of them, aren’t you? And we have a crew. You’ll have to come backstage afterwards and look at the mess that is left backstage once all these costumes are worn [Laughs].

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to start their own show or concert like yours, or anyone who wants to break into the musical industry?

Starting a theatre show is very difficult because theatres want to have seen you at other places before they book you

Greg: Starting a theatre show is very difficult because theatres want to have seen you at other places before they book you – how can that happen if it’s a brand new show? So it’s a chicken and egg situation to get into theatre land.

Vikki: Thinking of our history, I started my first band when I was 15. There wasn’t the budget in my family – because I was in a family of four – to go to drama school or stage school so I kind of learnt the ropes myself by going into a band and learning it that way and going to auditions and feeling and thinking is this the right thing to do? Sometimes you make mistakes and it’s the wrong thing and then you just think right no, I’ll carry on and I’ll do something else.

Just rounding up, what is so special to you about the 80s? Why the 80s out of all the different periods?

Greg: I think everybody has a certain period of music or films or whatever that sticks with them and I always think it’s from your formative years, about 14 to 16 years old.

Vikki: Music, it just unleashes fond memories and I think when you get to our 40s, 50s, 60s you tend to want to go back to your youth and forget about the here and now. And someone actually said to us, this show should be on National Health because it’s great for mid-life crises. It’s a feel good show, especially after the pandemic everybody is going more crazy, aren’t they? Because they haven’t been out for 18 months, so now everything is forgotten and it’s just that one night of being young again.

Music, it just unleashes fond memories

You can buy tickets online for 80s Mania (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – 30th October 2021, 7.30pm) here.

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