Seaside Special

RICHARD BATSON Pavilion Theatre, Cromer


Pavilion Theatre, Cromer

Watershed birthdays with a zero on the end are often time to prove, through a display of youthfulness and vigour, you are not getting old and past it.

This show, celebrating its 30th anniversary, is no exception - its timeless mix of traditional variety occasionally loosening its necktie and pulling on a trendy tee-shirt.

There were some gambles - as an audience, who not many years ago sang along to music hall tunes, found itself clapping along to rap music.

But it paid off, and, after an energetic disco finale, the cast bowed to the first standing ovation I can remember in 16 years of covering opening nights.

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Dance is again at the heart of the show's success, and provides some of the “wow” moments, as director Di Cooke's creativity combines with stunning sets and costumes. A mesmerising combination of ballet and gymnastics in a fantasy scene, and a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang routine, complete with flying car, were highlights of a slick opening night.

Headline comic Peter Piper proved an instant hit with the crowd, with his combination of comedy, a good singing voice and impressions - watch out for a stunning Basil Fawlty.

Comic ventriloquist Steve Hewlett combines funny material with technical brilliance. Who else could enthrall with a routine talking to his naked hand?

Vocalist Harvey James can switch effortlessly between pop and opera and is well teamed with sweet-voiced soprano Louise Franck.

Faultless flautist Julie Groves adds another dimension to the music, though the volume from the electronically enhanced one-man “pit” sometimes swamped the singers on opening night.

The Special continues to live up to its name. Where else can you watch a gorilla running around on stage one minute, then listen to a piece of classical flute music the next?

And the show has also done what we would all like to do - to mature and get younger at the same time.

t Seaside Special runs until September 22.

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