Seaside Special:Pavilion Theatre, Cromer

A comic in drag takes a slapstick tumble off the stage during a rifle drill routine, and is followed into the spotlight by a stunning solo from a virtuoso violinist.

Seaside Special - north Norfolk's top summer variety show - is in full swing at the Pavilion Theatre, Cromer. RICHARD BATSON reviews Saturday's opening night performance.

A comic in drag takes a slapstick tumble off the stage during a rifle drill routine, and is followed into the spotlight by a stunning solo from a virtuoso violinist.

It is the kind of contrast you cannot see in many seaside theatres these days - and is the reason people flock to Cromer each year to see its unique summer variety show.

Director Di Cooke has shaken and stirred another heady cocktail of end-of-the-pier entertainment that swirls with colour and spectacle.

For many years dance has been the glitzy glue that holds the show together, but this year it is the star.

A sexy hypnotic funky flamenco, clever Stomp!-style I've Got Rhythm routine using bucket, bins and brooms, and a sizzling Sixties finale were among the memorable moments as the curtain went up on this season's offering.

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So it is only right that the dance line-up of Aby Kate, Hazel Beauchamp, Natasha Keeley, Casey Smith, Juan Luis Gosp de Vincente and Andy Young get full recognition for their tireless efforts.

Also catching the eye was the versatile singer Laura Grace, equally at ease as Vera Lynn, using her sweet voice and winning smile to whip the crowd into a wartime singalong, or as Lulu belting out Shout.

The biggest opening night cheer was however reserved for the lightning fingers of Bulgarian violinist Teadora Ilieva as her fiery fiddle exploded with gipsy style dance, and a seaside medley including a handclapping hornpipe.

Georg Tormann's deep vocals were best showcased by Marie in a West Side Story sequence, which saw the show's other dancers - the cute children from the local Marlene's Dance School - take an edgier than usual role, as fighting gang members.

The comedy content of the show sees last year's star Peter Piper back with his observational, nostalgia-driven comedy which strikes a chord with the generally Saga-aged audience. He is joined by Johnny Mac, a Scottish scallywag with a charming cheekiness that should prove popular, if the material is right.

Some of the gags and sketches were spot on and as topical as Croatian penalty kicks, while others were as old as the pier, and some were in danger of sinking to puerile bodily function and toilet humour that is not that humorous.

The only other minor moan was that the richness of the big production numbers, including the electronically-enhanced orchestra pit, at times swamped the vocals.

But once those comedy and technical early season wrinkles are ironed out this should be another slick seaside show bringing smiles and sunshine to Norfolk's summer.

HERE is your chance to see the Seaside Special - for free… Saturday July 5 will see the opening night of “Show Two” - which will alternate with “Show One” in subsequent weeks. A pair of tickets for Show Two opening night will go to the winner. Just fill in the coupon and send your entry to Show Two competition, North Norfolk News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR 11RE by Wednesday, July 2. Be sure to put a daytime telephone number on your entry so you can be contacted should your correct answer be the one drawn. Normal Arhcant competition rules apply.

*The most recent winner of our weekly competition was Bethany Harvey of Erpingham