Cromer Pier Show Review: Seaside Special

by Anisa // 8 Comments
cromer pier show souvenir program with the stage of the Cromer Pavilion theatre in the background

The award-winning Cromer Pier show is back! It’s the only ‘End of the Pier’ show of its kind in the world and one of a few true live variety shows in Britain. We were invited to see the show and share our experience. Read our Cromer Pier Show Review (sometimes called the Seaside Special) to find out what it’s like to see a performance.

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What is the Cromer End of the Pier Show?

The Cromer Pier Show is a variety show held inside the historic Pavilion Theatre. This means you can expect a mix of comedy, dancing, singing, acrobatics, and magic. Each week they have a different guest performer who might be a comedian, ventriloquist, magician, or impressionist.

cromer pier show poster
This poster gives you an idea of the variety of performances you will see at the Cromer Pier Show.

History of the Pavilion Theatre

The Pavilion Theatre is one of only five UK end of pier theaters. Typically, it hosts the Seaside Special in the summer/early autumn as well as a Christmas-themed show during the holiday season. At other times, they host concerts and other community events. It’s one of the things you must see when you visit Cromer.

While there has been a pier or jetty in Cromer since 1391, the iron structure that we see today dates back to 1901. It had a bandstand at the end of the pier until the area was covered in 1905 to create the Pavilion Theatre.

In 1906, ‘concert parties’ started coming to the Pavilion Theatre. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the Cromer Protection Commission was responsible for selecting the touring shows that would appear. In 1936, Ronnie Brandons Out of the Blue became one of the theatre’s most famous shows.

Shows stopped during World War II and then the devastating gales of 1953 damaged the pier and the pavilion. Repairs were needed before the theatre would reopen for the 1955 season. There would be several more times when the pier suffered damage and would have to be rebuilt.

view of the cromer pier
The Cromer Pier is home to the Pavilion Theatre.

In 1978, the Seaside Special that we know today started thanks to a partnership with Irish Impresario Richard Condon. There were also changes made to the theatre including reducing seating capacity to 440 and adding a new café, bar, and foyer.

In 2001, a new partnership was formed between North Norfolk District Council and Openwide International in an effort to increase economic growth for the pier and the town. By 2004, they had increased seating capacity to 510, added a restaurant on the pier named Tides and a new shop named Footprints, and extended the bar. In 2005, the popular Christmas Seaside Special was introduced.

Over the years, some famous acts including Ken Dodd, Cannon and Ball, Joe Brown, The Searchers, Jimmy Tarbuck, Paul Daniels, The Barron Knights, Max Bygraves, and Val Doonican have performed at the Pavilion Theatre. It’s also been a place to discover up and coming talent.

The Pier Show has also won many awards including the 2018 Dance and Musician Theatre award at the Norfolk Arts awards. It was also a finalist for the Norfolk & Suffolk Tourism awards in 2020.

Cromer end of pier show dancers during riverdance performance
The Cromer Pier Show is high-energy and captivating from start to finish.

Our Experience at the Cromer End of the Pier Show

*We received complimentary tickets so that we could share the experience with our readers. Many of the pictures in this post were provided as photography is not allowed during the show. All opinions are our own.

It was one of those days when it looked like it could rain any minute. Of course as our luck would have it, the rain started just as we parked the car in Cromer. We got a little wet walking to the pier, but as soon as we got close, I could hear music from the Greatest Showman playing which got me pumped up for the show.

RELATED: Best Things to do in Norfolk in the Rain

We walked towards the end of the pier and saw signs showing which side to enter the theatre depending on your seat. There was no line to get in, so we were in our comfortable seats about 15 minutes before the show started.

cromer pier show singing performance
It was exciting to be able to see live theatre again!

The auditorium was about half-full, which would have never been the case pre-Covid. It’s a reflection of how cautious people are being as things start to return to normal following the lifting of Covid restrictions.

It’s clear that arts venues have found the last year and a half very challenging, and there’s still a way to go before things are ‘normal’ again. The Pavilion Theatre is doing everything they can to make everyone feel comfortable (details on that in the FAQ section).

We did have people sitting on either side of us. The seats were wide enough that it didn’t feel crowded. While we waited, we had a few minutes to skim through our souvenir programme.

The show started with a powerful behind-the-scenes video montage showing Cromer over the last 18-months and all the work that took place to be able to have the show again. The video was set to the song ‘From Now On’ from the Greatest Showman and as the beat picked up the audience began to clap along. It was the perfect way to open the show.

closeup of costume from masquerade performance at the cromer end of pier show
The full cast performed Masquerade from Phantom of the Opera.

We were introduced to the cast after they performed an entertaining song and dance to Masquerade from Phantom of the Opera. They had a male and female singer and six dancers.

This was a feast for the eyes and ears! Staging and costumes were as opulent as you’d expect for a masquerade ball, and the performers had powerful voices. It was obvious they all were enjoying being able to perform again.

Our host for the show was Phil Butler, who was making his fifth appearance as part of the Pier Show. Throughout the evening, he told jokes, did magic tricks (which can’t be explained), and even did a sand drawing. He used audience members in his magic tricks and kept the them engaged.

During our show, the special guest was Jon Clegg, who was a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent in 2014. I laughed out loud when he shared his ideas for songs that should be used for adverts and also when he sang ‘My Way’ while doing more different impressions than I could count.

duo fusion performing acrobatics at the Cromer Pier Show
Duo Fusion thrilled the crowd with their acrobatic performances.

The speciality act was Duo Fusion UK which is a cirque act that does aerial and acrobatic performances without any safety wires or nets. Connor and Tiffany are self-taught and have been performing both around the UK and internationally for the last eight years. I was amazed by their flexibility and strength, but for me, it was their passion that sold the performance.

During the interval, I went to the bar area to get us drinks. The prices were reasonable as I paid £5 for an iced latte and soda. The line moved quickly and I had plenty of time to get back to my seat before the show started again.

The second half of the show had just as much energy as the first. It opened with a Cuban composition with the performers in bright dress with a beautiful sunset in the background. There was more from Jon Clegg, Duo Fusion, and Phil Butler along with more music.

The grand finale was a medley from Les Miserables. When the cast took their bow, the audience gave a well-deserved standing ovation.

By the time the show had ended, the rain had cleared and it was a beautiful night. We walked along the promenade listening to the waves hitting the wall.

Overall Review of the Cromer Pier Show

It was our first time to see the Cromer Pier Show and we were impressed. We enjoyed the music, the dancing, the comedy, the magic, and the overall performance. With all the variety that the show offers, there is something for everyone. It could be an entertaining evening for the whole family or a fun date night.

The cast did a great job keeping the audience engaged. The music was fun and uplifting. I spent a lot of the show dancing and singing in my seat. There were several points when the entire audience was clapping along.

There was plenty to laugh about as the show went on. There were loads of jokes, gags and one-liners. Even the really corny ones were delivered with a knowing, self-deprecating smile and we all laughed along anyway. The humour was gentle, family-friendly and suitable for all ages. 

The magic tricks were funny too. I was surprised they actually worked and then wondered how it was possible.

My favourite thing might have been the way they used the high-tech video screen. It worked well with the choreography. Together with the props and coordinated costumes, at times it was visually mesmerizing.

The Cromer Pier Show was our first time back inside a theatre since the pandemic started. It felt good to be able to enjoy live theatre again. We are looking forward to the Cromer Pier Christmas Show.

cast of the cromer pier show at the end of Mary poppins medley
Just before the interval, the cast performed a medley of songs from Mary Poppins.

Cromer Pier Show FAQs

What is the schedule of performances for the 2021 Cromer Pier Show?

They have shows everyday except Monday. You can check the schedule here.

Is the Cromer Pier show good for kids?

Yes. All the kids around us seemed to be having a fabulous time. The theatre provided kids with extra cushions to help them be able to see the stage better. It’s a visually-appealing and high-energy performance, with some jokes specifically directed at the kids.
They do have a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children under 16) that saves £12.

How long does the Cromer Pier show last?

There will be slight variations in the running time depending on when you go as they change the guest star each week, and it’s a different show every season, but the one we saw is representative. That show lasted 2:10 including a 20 minute interval

Is there food and drink available at the Cromer Pavilion Theatre?

Yes. There is a bar at the back of the theatre that is open before the show and during the interval. They have a wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages along with snacks (crisps, sweets), cake, and ice cream.

How do you get to the Cromer Pier?

The Cromer Pier is located in the middle of the Cromer Beach in the town. Cromer is well connected by public transportation. Greater Anglia provides train service from Norwich to Cromer, which takes about an hour – get more information here. Alternatively, Sanders Coaches provides bus service from the Norwich bus station – check the fares and timetables here.
If you are coming from London, take the train from Liverpool Street Station to Norwich then transfer to the local train to Cromer. Be sure to book your train ticket in advance to get the best price. Check the schedule and book here.
Another option is to take the National Express bus from Victoria Station to the Norwich bus station and transfer to the Sanders Coach bus. Check price and schedule for the National Express bus here.

Where do you park for the Cromer Pier show?

There are several car parks around Cromer. We prefer the pay and display one towards the west end of town by the mini-golf. It cost us £2 and took credit cards.acrobat performing with ribbon at cromer end of pier show

How much are tickets to the Cromer Pier Show?

Ticket prices depend on where you want to sit and whether you are an adult, student, senior, carer, or child. The best seats for adults are £29.50, while children under 16 can get tickets for £10. There is also the option to get a family ticket.

Do you need to buy tickets in advance?

It’s recommended to get your tickets online in advance here.

Is the Cromer Pier Pavilion Theatre accessible?

Yes, there are ramps to the Pier entrance and wheelchair access to the Pavilion Bar and Theatre. Removable seats are available in the front stalls for wheelchair users. The Duty Manager and Ushers are on hand to assist you with getting to your seats. A disabled toilet is located in the Pavilion Bar foyer and the Tides Restaurant.
Guide dogs are welcome.
Handsets or neck loops are available, but you should contact the Box Office team to pre-book.

Is the Cromer End of Pier show worth it?

Yes! For a live theatre show, I think it is a bargain and a fun night out. It is quintessentially Cromer and good, wholesome entertainment for everyone.

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