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Review: Thursford’s Christmas Spectacular returns to dazzle audiences again

12:42 11 November 2014

Thursford Christmas Spectacular 2014.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Thursford Christmas Spectacular 2014. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

Almost anyone new to the Thursford story will find it hard to get their head around the concept of a small village in rural north Norfolk hosting one of the biggest Christmas shows in Europe.

Facts and figures

• The Thursford Christmas Spectacular is regarded as the biggest Christmas show of its kind in the UK, possibly Europe.

• It was founded in 1977, and the show attracts 50 coach loads of visitors per day.

• This year’s show has a budget of £4m.

• It features a cast of 130 dancers, singers and musicians.

• It takes 30 costume makers and fitters to produce all the stage costumes, and there are 2,000 costumes per show and 79 shows.

• The cast goes through two months of rehearsals.

• The show is estimated to be worth £10m to the region’s economy every year.

Yet most who attended Sunday night’s performance, on the opening weekend of this year’s run, will be less surprised by the Thursford Christmas Spectacular’s enduring success.

The show was as amazing as the event’s phenomenal rise from its humble beginnings.

What started as a small carol concert in an old farm shed in 1977 now attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year and has a budget of £4m.

No expense is spared in providing the audience with a fantastic three hours of entertainment, filled with lavish costumes, stunning stage design and some of the best performers in the country.

This is the third time I have attended the Thursford Christmas Spectacular and, while I’ve never left disappointed, this was the show I enjoyed the most.

A big part of that enjoyment came from not knowing what would come next. From bizarre singing cats to a truly breathtaking acrobatic display from Laura Tikka, who performed in time to some stunning opera singing, Thursford goes brilliantly from 
the surreal to the sublime within seconds.

The standard of the music and the dancing was exceptional and there was great variety, featuring everything from Abba to opera, from an American country hoedown to a Sister Act-esque nuns’ chorus. Old favourites were a big hit with the sell-out crowd.

Comedian Keith Loads returned with his classic Norfolk humour and Thursford stalwart Phil Kelsall wowed on the Wurlitzer organ.

But, for me, it is a testament to the talent and drive of Thursford founder, producer and director John Cushing and his creative team that the show remains fresh, original, thoroughly enjoyable and, on this evidence, even better every year.

• The Thursford Christmas Spectacular will be performed at 2pm and 7pm every day until December 23.

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