Thursford set to be more spectacular than ever

The biggest Christmas show in England bursts into life for its 33rd season tomorrow, with a cast of over 100 bringing its unique mix of dance, song and humour to the thousands of visitors for whom Christmas is not Christmas without the Thursford Spectacular.

Without fail, 135,000 people will come from all over the country to the tiny north Norfolk village, to see a show that will rival anything the West End has to offer.

And again no expense has been spared in staging the event which started as a simple Christmas Party back in 1977 on a shoestring budget.

This year it will cost show director and founder John Cushing around �3m, plus an investment of a quarter of a million pounds in new lighting, sound and special effects equipment.

Some of the dance sequences have cost over �45,000 in costumes, just for a three to four minute routine.

But that is what makes Thursford special and brings visitors back year after year, with around 80,000 of them booking seats for the next year in the first week of January.

Mr Cushing, son of George Cushing, who started the collection of steam engines and organs that first inspired the event, said the statistics spoke for themselves.

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'There are over 100 cast members, 20 dancers, 56 singers, a 32-piece orchestra as well as readings and comedy,' he said.

'We have 50 coaches arriving every day bringing people from all over the country, it has become a real pilgrimage.'

The performers also come from all over the country, all professionals from some of the top theatres across the land or captivating audiences around the world on cruise ships. Popular ventriloquist Steve Hewlett, who is back for his third year, is being helicoptered in on Thursday from his latest ocean-going gig.

'The show has such a following that people come irrespective of who is in it,' said Mr Cushing. 'Everyone in the cast is a star.

'The other important thing for us is that everything is 100 per cent live. Most theatres will have a smaller orchestra that is boosted and performers are tracked in, but at Thursford it is a wonderful opportunity for our stars to shine and really showcase their talents.'

For Mr Cushing the challenge is to improve on the show every year and for the past 33 years he has managed to do just that. He said he goes to as many shows as possible through the year, getting inspiration for his spectacular and never stops in his quest to make Thursford bigger and better.

'All this in the middle of a field,' he said.

Thursford Christmas Spectacular starts tomorrow and runs up to Thursday, December 23, with two shows per day at 2pm and 7pm. Prices range from �24.50-�34 with Saturday and Sunday shows an extra �2 per seat. Telephone 01328 878477.

A special charity gala performance is being held on Saturday, December 18 at 7pm in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust Appeal, East Anglia and promises to have a very special guest in the audience.

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