Suffolk’s most spectacular show returns to Snape Maltings

Suffolk’s most spectacular show returns to Snape Maltings

The largest youth theatre production in the UK has been entertaining Suffolk for the last 15 years with a Christmas Spectacular at Snape Maltings Concert Hall.  Now it’s back!

With more than 80 toy soldiers, 26 Santas, 10 reindeer and 50,000 twinkling lights, the festive extravaganza returns with a bang from December 3 to 12.  The Co-op Juniors Christmas Spectacular is a firm family favourite, with audiences travelling from all over East Anglia to enjoy its glittering mix of music and dance.

Co-directors Lucy Allen and Oliver Brett are as excited as the cast of 94 to be back at the world-famous venue after a two-year enforced break.

Oliver Brett says, “We haven’t performed in front of an audience since December 2019.  So our talented young cast, aged from 7 to 21, can’t wait to get back onstage.”

Christmas Spectacular is known for its high production values and live orchestra, with more added surprises in store this year to delight audiences.  More than 800 costumes have been created by an army of creative parents, all volunteers.  A completely new glittering stage set features soaring festive arches, thousands of lights and gold Christmas trees.

Says co-director Lucy Allen, “We’ve put together a rich selection of musical numbers and dance styles, there truly is something for everyone. From jiving to a big band beat to tap dancing, synchronised marching toy soldiers to dancing reindeers and a high-kicking chorus line, it’s an eye-popping, foot-tapping show. We want everyone to leave Snape with a warm festive glow, ready to celebrate this special time of year.”

There’s also a real sense of tradition and family at the heart of Christmas Spectacular.  A gloriously moving nativity scene and a bedtime story about Santa and the North Pole are just two of the highlights, with a finale set to raise the roof with its sheer energy.

The live orchestra with eight professional musicians is an important element of the show, with its rich sound reverberating around the concert hall. The musicians rise on a lift to stage level as the show opens, setting the scene for more spectacle to follow.

For musical director Jo King, arranging and orchestrating music to suit different dance styles and younger voices is a challenge she relishes.

“Working with a young cast is rewarding and often surprising,” she explains. “Their talent, enthusiasm and energy makes my work easier, finding numbers that push them that bit further. We ran creative workshops to have fun across a broad range of skills, while learning new ones.”

When it comes to production standards, the bar is set high.  An Ipswich Star review of the 2019 Spectacular called it “as inventive and impeccably presented as anything you would see on the West End stage.”  As fog rolls across the stage and a huge section of scenery travels majestically to the front of the stage carrying the nativity scene, the audience are treated to amazing stage magic.

To achieve those standards requires a backstage team of experts in lighting, scenery construction and painting, costume, sound and props.

Costume supervisors Jeannie Ingram and Cilla Tricker have the unenviable job of sourcing or making the many hundreds of costumes.  “We’ve become experts at transforming and adapting costumes,” they added. “We have a team of volunteers who cut out costumes, ready to be made by parents and friends into the finished article.”

Lighting designer Gordon Torrington has worked with some of the top professional creative talents in the industry but enjoys his ‘holiday’ at Snape as he has a long-standing relationship with the creative team and a chance to try out new lighting equipment worth more than £700,000.

“There’s a buzz about Christmas Spectacular that gets everyone excited.  It’s ambitious on a scale unmatched by any other youth company, and the reaction of the audience is always a treat,” added Jo King.

Christmas Spectacular is at Snape Maltings from 3 to 12 December.  For tickets, call 01728 687110 or visit Seats from £15, with special offers available for groups, over 60s and under 16s.

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