Aladdin starring Ashley Banjo and Diversity review at Cliffs Pavilion, Southend – ‘exceptional dancing’
The dance troupe Diversity took part in its first ever pantomime last year at the Palladium, where it added some exceptional dance smarts to the Arabian scenes of Dick Whittington. This year, the team headed by Ashley Banjo are very much the headliners at Cliffs Pavilions’ Aladdin but while star turns can sometimes jar with the material, Diversity’s heightened street dance actually enhances this story.
Taking on the communal role of Genies of the Ring, Diversity perform as a collective and the rhythm of their moves is infectious. Comedian Ian Royce as Wishee Washee apes Perri Kiely’s distinctive hairstyle in an attempt to join the team and David Phipps-Davis’ lascivious Widow Twankey can’t help but be won over by their charms.
Outside of this choreographic chorus Alan McHugh’s book lumbers along with amiable predictability. Liam Doyle’s ambitious Aladdin is suitably charming, Denquar Chupak’s assertive Princess Jasmine is wholly practical and together they make an effective romantic couple.
Far more interesting is Daniel Boys dastardly camp Abanazar. Practically unrecognisable in heavy make-up and a jet wig, the actor has graduated with honours from romantic lead to big-time baddie with flying colours.
Mike Coltman’s costumes stand out on an otherwise glitter-free set but the real triumph in this Aladdin are local boys Diversity and how they bring a new energy to an old story.