Christmas at Thursford

IAN CLARKE The comment from someone who had travelled 100 miles from Essex to remotest rural North Norfolk said it all. “It gets better every year – how do you do it?”

IAN CLARKE

The comment from someone who had travelled 100 miles from Essex to remotest rural North Norfolk said it all.

“It gets better every year – how do you do it?”

The question posed at the interval to John Cushing – the genius behind the unique Thursford extravaganza – was almost certainly echoed by every member of the 1300-strong audience on the opening night on Saturday.

The magnetism of the show to draw 90,000 people in little over a month from sometimes greater distances is extraordinary.

As Christmas at Thursford – which started as a carol service attracting a few hundred people – approaches its silver jubilee it is bigger than ever.

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The line-up of musicians, singers and dancers is packed with performers who have starred at some of the world's most prominent theatres.

It would be difficult to better the costumes, choreography, lighting and entertainment value in the West End.

But the festive spectacular is not just another three-hour appetiser for another yuletide season. It is part of John Cushing. He has a say in every aspect of the event, which takes every enthralled visitor on a trip of enjoyment and spine-tingling magic.

What he manages to achieve should not be possible in a converted farm building 120 miles from London.

One minute we are traditional with The Holly And The Ivy, then the dancers perform a high-octane version of Whole Lotta Shakin'.

Before you can catch your breath, Wurlitzer king Phil Kelsall dazzles us and then the mood alters with the enchanting harp taking over to transport us to the Emerald Isle for the Thursford Riverdance.

The seamless transition between the encapsulation of the true meaning of Christmas in readings and beautifully arranged carols and top-quality entertainment is amazing.

In the midst of creating the biggest Christmas show in the UK, John never forgets his roots. The images on video screens of his two sons baking a Christmas cake for his father George captivated the audience.

The buzz of anticipation at the start of the evening told me something special was coming up. I was not disappointed.

Limited numbers of tickets are available for some shows. Ring the box office on 01328 878477.