For more than 40 years, the Thursford Christmas Spectacular has been a highlight of the festive season. Its showy extravagance fuses traditional Christmas music and songs with the opulence of a Las Vegas revue featuring a company of nearly 150 singers, dancers, musicians and technicians.
Considering the event takes place in a converted steam engine museum, it’s a remarkable achievement that’s genuinely spectacular.
Producer and director John Cushing has put together the perfect balance of the secular and spiritual, blending intricate arrangements of classic carols with Glenn Miller tributes and a Country and Western hoedown.
The scale and symmetry of Tracey Iliffe’s choreography is mesmerising, utilising the inordinately long stage to create a meticulous chorus-line of statuesque showgirls, toy soldiers or two-dozen Charlie Chaplins gracefully clowning along to Smile.
Ventriloquist Steve Hewlett makes for a genial host, punctuating the acts with comedy routines and lots of good-humoured audience participation. Roller skaters Royer and Emilie and Cyr wheeler Billy George bring some circus excitement into the show although Wurlitzer virtuoso Phil Kelsall’s dexterity on the keyboard is just as breathtaking.
Highlights of this year’s line-up include a genius rendition of Rockin’ All Over the World bringing together an unlikely pairing of electric guitar with bagpipes and a silks aerial ballet performed to the Randy Crawford classic One Day I’ll Fly Away. There’s a masquerade featuring some astounding costumes designed by Stephen Adnitt and an edifying Hallelujah Chorus that showcases not only the versatility of the Thursford singers but also the artistry of head of sound Kieran Lowe.