Review of Thursford Christmas Spectacular: Festive variety show is almost three hours of pure joy
Now in its 46th year, Thursford Christmas Spectacular has been entertaining audiences for decades.
The festive variety show has attracted almost six million visitors since it first launched as a small carol concert in an old farm shed back in 1977.
It is now one of the biggest shows of its kind in Europe, playing to sold-out audiences who travel from the length and breadth of the UK each year to see a show unlike any other.
Hosted in the small village near Fakenham, the Thursford Steam Museum is transformed into a winter wonderland every November and December.
Having last experienced Thursford back in 2016, I jumped at the chance to return – but this time I brought along my partner and his two kids.
The second we walked through the archway which welcomes visitors to the site, we were transported to that winter wonderland.
Soldier figurines adorn the grass, while the Fantasy Land and Treasures of the Past attraction – where animatronics and some of the steam engines can be found – has had a Christmassy makeover to become Santa’s Magical Journey.
We managed a quick look around here before the show and it was magical – combining the fun and fantastical with the historical.
Then the time came for the main event – the show itself, which producer and director John Cushing tells me takes a year of preparation and hundreds of auditions before it makes it to the stage.
What we experienced was almost three hours of pure joy. It is as it is billed: an extravaganza of singing, dancing, comedy, speciality acts and festive fun.
It is hard to pick out highlights, as it was such a jam-packed show. The true scale of it is hard to do justice through words alone – with a cast of more than 120 singers, dancers, an orchestra, as well as the speciality acts, and that's without mentioning the creative, backstage and costume teams.
But what I can say is the music was delightful, with a beautiful blend of voices and instruments taking on a variety of tunes including Christmas carols, classical pieces and musical numbers from Mary Poppins, Grease and Oliver (which I particularly enjoyed).
The dancers were slick and perfectly in time – again, the variety was incredible with a number of styles conquered throughout the evening. I loved the Irish dance number and there were other routines that were so in sync that they became almost like optical illusions.
Kudos has to go to the costume team who created some absolutely beautiful pieces for the cast on stage.
And the speciality acts brought another element to the line-up.
Comedian Lloyd Hollett – The Comedy Wordsmith, who compères the show, had the audience in fits of giggles and made it through a number of impressive tongue-twisting tales.
Extreme mountain biker Danny Butler and rollerskating acrobats Sven and Jan Rauhe had our hearts in our mouths with their performances.
Juggling duo Leif Hellmuth and Pat Fabio as Strahlemann & Söhne were amazing – I never knew juggling could be so entertaining or amusing!
As it came to a close, white doves were released over the audience by David Sherwood, which was a fittingly beautiful ending to the show.
It can be summarised by saying this: they call it “spectacular” for a reason.
If you wanted to extend your Thursford experience further, the site also offers food, drink and shops with merchandise and more.
And there is also the Enchanted Journey of Light trail, where you will find beautiful, colourful and magical displays of creatures and more lit up against the dark night’s sky.
It’s an immersive experience that also provides plenty of photo opportunities with family or friends.
Thursford Christmas Spectacular will run until December 23, with performances at 2pm and 7pm.
Daytime shows start at £35.25 a ticket, with evenings starting at £43.
Tickets for the spectacular, Santa’s Christmas Journey and the Enchanted Journey of Light trail are available online at www.thursford.com or via the box office 01328 878477
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