Photo Gallery: Potters Resort showcases West End talent on the East coast ahead of Christmas
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014
It is almost balmy for November but Christmas has arrived in earnest for the mid-week leisure crowd at Potters Resort.
Santa's grotto is in place near reception while resident comic Buzby Allen (aka Visit England Tourism Superstar 2014) is scampering about in elf mode insistently trying to infect any possible Scrooge suspects with the festive spirit.
However, it is in the resort's impressive Atlas Theatre where Christmas has really taken hold amid the glitter of diamantes and snow flakes falling steadily around the stage.
Having chosen music from the rousing Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep) to the cosily familiar I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas back in June, last Thursday was the afternoon for a pensive-looking show producer Nicola Hathway to watch the final dress rehearsal.
It is the resort's third Christmas spectacular - The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - and entertainment director Nigel Pattle admits the pressure is on 'to raise the bar every year'.
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While most people in Norfolk remain oblivious to the West End talent performing on their doorstep, Potters' guests - many of whom come from Essex - expect the best.
'They would be disappointed if we didn't bring them something new and something better each time,' said Mr Pattle.
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A 30-year veteran at Potters, he has seen the entertainment offering transformed from the days when waiters and bartenders simply morphed into singers and dancers come the witching hour.
The £2m Atlas Theatre was built in 1996 but the change that still puts Potters apart from other resorts occurred in 2001.
'That was when we launched London auditions and started running as a professional theatre company rather than a more traditional entertainment department,' said Mr Pattle.
The pedigree of the talent is shown by the names that have appeared in Potters Theatre Company over the years.
Lee Mead was at Potters for six months prior to winning Andrew Lloyd Webber's BBC show Any Dream Will Do and going on to star in the 2007 West End revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat while Leanne Mitchell, winner of BBC's The Voice two years ago, was a favourite at the Hopton resort for ten years.
Mr Pattle said: 'The costs go up every year but managing director John Potter is insistent that he never wants to put a budget on entertainment.
'We are careful to re-use sets and costumes as far as we can but, with the cost of attracting big names to the resort, we have spent well over £2m on entertainment this year.'
Their Christmas spectacular is, in many ways, the pinnacle of the year but unlike the company's other shows all the creative effort is going into just 16 performances.
And Mr Pattle added that a further complication was the fact the show had to meet the festive expectations of very different audiences - the families who came at weekends and the older generation of mid-week holidaymakers who came to the resort for indoor bowls.
Mrs Hathway, who first came to Potters as a guest at the age of 14 and started out as a dancer there at 21, confessed that throughout the impressive summer enjoyed on the East coast her thoughts had frequently drifted to the Victorian Christmas scene, rousing brass band section, snow-flake finale and all the other elements of this year's spectacular.
'We started rehearsals with children from Potters Theatre School back in July but because of the demands of their schooling it only all came together with the adult performers in the last few days,' she said.
As she watched the final rehearsal, she observed ruefully that all the Christmas sparkle comes at no small price.
'I have spent months glueing more than 20,000 diamantés on to costumes,' she said.
Adding to her own inevitable nerves ahead of the first night when the show was to be unleashed on Potters' mid-weekers, was the fact her ten-year-old daughter Libby - a member of the theatre school - is performing a duet with lead male vocalist Sion Hathway.
Having started out as a waiter at the resort before gradually realising the richness of his vocal talent, Sean (who is producer Nicola's ex-husband) has just returned to Potters - where he has long been a favourite - following a contract which saw him travelling the world on a six-star cruise liner.
All members of Potters' entertainment team agree the clifftop venue has a friendly family atmosphere, but lead female vocalist Lucy Madden has even more reason to stay.
The Leeds girl met her fiance Joe Hunt on resort - 'he and his family had been coming to stay here for years' - and they are getting married next year.
With all the months of creative effort about to come to fruition, Mr Pattle has one Christmas wish shared by his whole team.
He said: 'It would be great if more people in Norfolk came to see the show. Many locals just see Potters as home to the World Indoor Bowls Championships.'
Mrs Hathway added: 'For the price of seeing a show in the West End, people can come here on a one-night break and enjoy three meals and all the other entertainment the resort has to offer as well as a show of West End quality.'
Prices for a one night special featuring the 2014 Christmas Spectacular start from £99. This includes comfortable accommodation, a five-course dinner with selected wines, a midnight dish, breakfast the following morning, activities and use of extensive sports and leisure facilities.
• Visit www.pottersholidays.com for more information or call 0333 3207 497 to book.