Thursford Christmas Spectacular
IAN CLARKE Thursford Collection
It was a simple gesture – just a handshake and a few kind words.
But it perfectly encapsulated the feelings of the entire 1500-strong thrilled, awe-struck and captivated gathering in the remarkable auditorium.
At the interval on Saturday's opening night, a man grabbed John Cushing – the genius behind this unique and truly wonderful festive extravaganza.
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“I come every year – and it's better than ever,” said the delighted pensioner.
John was touched. He was even a shade embarrassed.
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Over the next five weeks, more than 100,000 people will surely agree that the show staged in a converted barn in the middle of nowhere is just getting better and better.
If you have never entered the winter wonderland at the Thursford Collection and witnessed the three-hour journey of mind-boggling entertainment, then you will only ever know what it is like by trying to get one of the few remaining tickets.
It has become the Christmas event in the country and is in the top five of the nation's most watched live entertainment shows.
In his 26th year at the helm of the music, dance and prose masterpiece, John maintains the balance of keeping the well-loved regular features with imaginative and exciting new additions.
No Thursford shows would be the same without maestro Phil Kelsall on the Wurlitzer or the Snowman scene or the grand finale of carol singing and doves.
John, though, never rests on his laurels – and the new routines and touches of magic ensured a thrilling night.
The crowd came to life with a high-energy song and dance rendition of Jailhouse Rock.
They loved Macnamara's Band, sat hushed appreciating the classical treats by the choir, including extracts from Handel's Messiah and Veni Veni Emmanuel, and swayed with the feel-good We Are The World, in which flags from around the globe were paraded in the theatre.
John should not be able to fill his auditorium with the wonderfully powerful Star of Bethlehem, then seconds later transform the mood with high-kicking dancers in shiny Santa suits, then take the pace right down again.
It surely breaks the rules. But John does it – and does it so well.
Many people wiped away tears during a wonderfully moving tribute on the big screens to John's father George, who founded Thursford Museum and died earlier this year aged 98.
Quite simply, it is a production which would easily grace any stage in any theatre in the land.
The Thursford Christmas Spectacular continues daily at 2.30pm and 7pm until December 23. A few tickets, costing £18.50, are still available. Call the box office on 01328 878477.