Countdown to festive extravaganza

RICHARD PARR The magic that is the Thursford Christmas Spectacular is days away and the 100-plus cast of singers, dancers and musicians are in their final rehearsals for Saturday's opening show.

RICHARD PARR

The magic that is the Thursford Christmas Spectacular is days away and the 100-plus cast of singers, dancers and musicians are in their final rehearsals for Saturday's opening show.

This year, a record-breaking 104,000 people will travel from all over the country to the hamlet of Thursford, near Fakenham, to see the festive fantasy that is considered the biggest show of its kind in England and is in its 27th consecutive year.

For the show's founder and director, John Cushing, the launch of the show is the completion of months of work putting the sacred and secular elements of the show together.


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From Saturday until December 23 there will be more than 70 performances of the twice-daily show which costs more than £1m

And wardrobe mistresses searching for outfits for the cast of the spectacular have turned to High Street chain stores.

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They have been on a shopping spree in Norwich and bought evening dresses from Principals.

The store did not have sufficient stock available so others in Glasgow and Rochdale were contacted and delivered the goods to Thursford. Other evening outfits came from High Street chain Karen Millen.

Geraldine Rye, personal assistant to Mr Cushing, took the EDP behind the scenes into the costume department and showed one of the burgundy dresses to be worn by an orchestra member for a musical sequence lasting a few minutes. The dress, covered by beading, costs £110 and 12 of these have been purchased.

During the three-hour production almost 1000 costumes will be worn because each of the musicians, singers and dancers has several changes of outfit. Most are designed and hand-made by a team of dressmakers but about 5pc are bought.

Hats needed for a Spanish dance sequence are being flown over from Spain, such is the attention to detail in the show.

Mr Cushing says he is proud of its reputation, and will be present at the final rehearsals this week to ensure that every scene is just as he planned it.

"As soon as one show finishes I am thinking about the next one and on a hot summer's afternoon I lock myself away in my study to work on a new song or a new scene. It's Christmas all year round for me."

He puts the show's success down to the fact it offers people a couple of hours of escapism.

"The show has a 'feel good factor' and the minute the audiences walk through the main entrance they become caught up in the magic we create. The smiles on their faces as they leave the auditorium are my reward," said Mr Cushing.

The show contributes greatly to the North Norfolk economy. People arrive by coach, stopping at Fakenham and nearby places for food before the show, and local holiday homes are rented by the cast at a time when they would probably be empty.

Ring the Thursford Collection on 01328 878477 for details of ticket availability.

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