Apart from the infamously expensive (and risk assessment defying) Broadway production of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, there hasn’t really been a show that specifically caters to fans of the Marvel/DC comic universes in the musical theatre canon. Eugenius! fits that gap in the genre and is a gloriously silly evening of superheroes and 80s tunes.
Following a concert debut at the London Palladium and an initial run at The Other Palace in Spring 2018, Eugenius! returns with a few tweaks, a partially new cast and just as much fun. There is no doubt that we are in the 80s with Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins’ pop score and book chock-full of power ballads and hard rock anthems.
We follow aspiring comic book illustrator Eugene (Rob Houchen) as he is faced with the choice between Hollywood fame and maintaining integrity, alongside his pals Janey (Laura Baldwin) and Feris (Daniel Buckley). His hilariously titled characters Tough Man (Simon Thomas), Super Hot Lady (Emily Tierney) and Evil Lord Hector (Neil McDermott) come to life before the audience’s (and Eugene’s) very eyes.
Houchen, new to the cast, plays Eugene with a sweet innocence while Buckley reprises his larger than life Feris with infectious exuberance and excellent comic timing. Baldwin, also returning to the show, has the right balance of feistiness and vulnerability as she follows her dear friend on his adventures.
It can be tricky to draw the line in comedic exaggeration in a show that is largely a parody. Tierney’s portrayal of ditzy Carrie/Super Hot Lady felt a little over the top at times however that didn’t stop her having the audience in stitches. McDermott’s casting as Hector fits the twin brother origin story better than the previous outing of the production and he plays the villain with appropriate childish flamboyance. Scott Paige’s hilariously camp portrayal of Theo was also a highlight.
Andrew Ellis’ stunning lighting design amplifies the small stage of The Other Palace’s auditorium with brilliant purple beams of light coming from every direction. The fairy light cascade ceiling also adds an element of magical fantasy to the performance space before the show has even started – alongside a very apt John Williams pre-show soundtrack.
Aaron Renfree’s choreography is packed with energy and fist bumps which the audience enthusiastically join in with at the high-energy end of the show. Hannah Wolfe’s multi-level set maximises the area for the cast to hop and dive around and it was nice to see the band, led by MD Darren Lord, in full view.
You lose count of the number of 80s references, from Eugene wearing a ‘Back to the Future’ style gilet, to Mark Hamill himself voicing Kevin the Robot – due to the show’s well-connected producer Warwick Davies.
There are also a few musical theatre easter eggs for stagey folks to lap up. The audience can be heard leaving the auditorium humming the particularly catchy “Go Eugenius!” and gushing over the nostalgia packed tale. It’s a treat for everyone, whether you were born in the 80s or not!
Review by Fiona Scott
Eugenius! – the most hotly anticipated new musical – is back! It’s kicking off a strictly limited return at The Other Palace in Victoria, London, and it’s even better!
Eugenius! boasts a ton of totally original songs that you’ll go nuts for even on first hearing – Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins have written a show full of instantly addictive hits – and they’ll be buzzing in your brain for the rest of the year.
Plus there’s a sassy script that’ll make you laugh, gasp, sing, cry, and shout ‘Go Eugenius!’ along with everyone else.
This is a show where geeks rule, dreams do come true, and everyone finds the superhero inside themselves – now they know where to look.
Booking until 21st October 2018.
The Other Palace
12 Palace Street