Cromer seaside special warms up

A shaft of summer sunshine shone through the misty grey gloom at Cromer, as the Seaside Special show began warming up for its 30th season.

A shaft of summer sunshine shone through the misty grey gloom at Cromer, as the Seaside Special show began warming up for its 30th season.

The seashore was draped in fog, cloud and a chill wind, but inside the Pavilion Theatre glitz, glamour, song and comedy twinkled in the spotlights.

More than 46,000 people flock to see a show which is one of the last surviving tastes of end-of-the-pier variety.

Director Di Cooke said its success lay in retaining the charm of traditional variety while moving with the times.

This year's show will include a tribute to the pop legends Queen and a potted version of the hit musical Chicago, as well as the timeless songs of Cole Porter and some classical ballet.

A party theme would be running through the show, to mark the 30th anniversary of Seaside Special - a new format created by former Norwich Theatre Royal impresario Richard Condon.

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New this year will be overhead projection equipment allowing pictures and video to be beamed on stage, and a baby electric grand piano which has been squeezed into the wings - and will see musical director Nigel Hogg elevated out of the orchestra pit.

Headlining the show is Peter Piper, a former northern club comedian, whose career has expanded to include impressions and drama - which included playing an “upper-class English twit” in a television series called Acapulco Heat, which he described as a cross between Baywatch and Mission Impossible.

Peter has also done voiceovers including parts in the Black Beauty and Pocahontas cartoons, appeared in Holby City, and toured with the Boogie Nights musical show.

Having done live production shows called Viva at Blackpool, he was thrilled to be back at a seaside venue, which was like “a working museum” of variety, in a resort which had not been spoiled by modern tackiness.

“When I first came here to look at the show last summer, getting off the train was like “stepping out of the Tardis into the 1930s,” he said. As well as his own larger-than-life personality, he is likely also to bring John Cleese, Tommy Cooper and Ali G into the mix.

He is joined by ventriloquist Steve Hewlett, who took the Christmas Seaside Special by storm.

The singers are Wisbech's Harvey James, returning from last summer, after a winter which included panto at Reading and playing an Irish tenor in Reno, Nevada, and Louise Franck, who has toured with shows as diverse as Oliver Twist and a chart tribute.

Julie Groves is the specialist musician, stepping out of her usual environment of a classical orchestra and into her first summer variety show. The cast is completed by six dancers, four of whom have appeared in earlier seasons.

Seaside Special opens on Saturday June 23 and runs until September 22. For more information and tickets, call the box office on 01263 512495.

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