One of Europe's largest Christmas productions is held each year in converted barns in the middle of the Norfolk countryside. Surrounded by fields of sugar beet and wheat, the stage spectacular in the hamlet of Thursford has gained a reputation drawing audiences of more than 160,000 every winter.
Added to that, thousands come during the festive season to experience Santa's Magical Journey as animated Christmas elves, penguins, polar bears and snowmen prepare for the special day in a glittery wonderland of Santa's grotto - an added extra to the stage show which runs in November and December.
For 40 years, people from throughout the UK and abroad have travelled to Thursford to see the show which has gained international fame. Song, dance, music, traditional carols and Wurlitzer organ music, military bands and choral performances are combined in the Christmas Spectacular which runs for six weeks.
The show has been described as ‘Santa goes to Las Vegas’ with an annual production budget close to £2million.
The production is the brainchild of John Cushing whose father George created the Thursford Collection, the UK’s largest collection of steam traction engines, organs and fairground attractions.
Many families book tickets a year ahead for the show, nine miles from Blakeney, which features a cast of 120 professional singers, dancers and comedians. The show is spectacular in its set design and the quality of the performers.
Preparations begin in March as John Cushing starts to devise his next glittering offering. And by November a highly polished performance, complete with a 32-piece orchestra and capable of rivalling West End productions, is ready with Christmas classics, traditional and modern, to excite and entrance audiences who pile in by the coachload for their special piece of ‘Norfolk Christmas’.
The lavish production strikes a balance between contemporary and traditional so everyone can enjoy their old favourites with a carol concert with a modern cabaret too. And it is on the Christmas list for the Royal Family who make their annual trip from Sandringham to hear the spectacular concert.
The event began in 1977, the year John Cushing took over running the Thursford Collection from his father, and added a traditional carol concert featuring the choir of King’s College, Cambridge. It was a knock-out success and Cushing decided to build on this. He hasn’t stopped building on the scale and ambition of the show since.
The auditorium now seats almost 1,500 and there is a 130ft wide stage. Some of the fairground attractions have been built into the show which now generates £10million for the local economy and creates hundreds of local jobs in sales, catering and hospitality.
So if you want a really glossy show with high-kicking dancing girls, stunning music combined with traditional songs and carols, laughter and sound there is only one Thursford show.
The Thursford Spectacular runs until December 23 2019 with two shows a day.
To book, call: 01328 878477