Thursford dancers hoping to kick their way into the record books

Richard ParrA Norfolk village's famous Christmas Spectacular show will kick-off in lovely and lively style on Saturday afternoon when 20 scantily-clad performers will re-create the old 'Tiller Girls' routine.Richard Parr

A Norfolk village's famous Christmas Spectacular show will kick-off in lovely and lively style on Saturday afternoon when 20 scantily clad performers will re-create the old Tiller Girls routine.

And the sell-out Thursford show's producers are hoping that the opening sequence will kick its way into the record books for the highest number of girls ever to appear in this particular linked-arms dance routine.

According to the show's founder and director John Cushing, even when the Tiller Girls opened the Sunday Night at the London Palladium TV shows there were only 18 of them.

"As far as we are aware, there have never been as many as 20 girls in this high-kick routine… so we are going to contact the Guinness Book of Records people to see if can be officially declared a record," said Mr Cushing.

One of the most famous of the Tiller Girls troupe was Betty Boothroyd, who went on to become an MP and the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons, a post she held for eight years.

For Mr Cushing, who each year devises the content for the colourful three-hour sacred and secular seasonal celebration, putting on the 20-girl dancers' high-kick routine is the realisation of an ambition.

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"This is something I have always wanted to see staged at Thursford," he said.

It promises to be an opening number to remember on Saturday as the line-up of glamorous performers in their sparkling sequined bikini outfits and ostrich-feathered hats, bring back memories for many of those in the audience of the 1950s when Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium was not-to-be-missed TV for millions of viewers.

Nearly 130,000 tickets have been sold for the run of 86 Thursford performances, which will continue until December 23 with twice-daily shows at 2pm and 7pm.

The show's budget is �2.5m, with just one scene alone costing �32,000 to stage.

Mr Cushing said it was now generally recognised that the Thursford Christmas Spectacular was the largest show of its kind in the country and possibly even Europe.

"It really is a Norfolk phenomenon. We have a cast of 130 dancers and singers and a 32-piece orchestra all joining together to celebrate the magic of Christmas - and it all takes place in the middle of a field in a tiny Norfolk village."

Judging by the thousands of people who book year after year to see the show, it hasn't been hit by the credit crunch.

General manager Geraldine Rye said: "I think people save up so that they can still come to the show. They may cut down on other luxuries, but they still want to celebrate Christmas by coming to the Thursford show."

Contact the box office, on 01328 878477, to check for limited return tickets.

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