When it originally opened for a limited run earlier this year to positive reviews, Eugenius a new musical written by Ben Adams and Chris Watkins, quickly gained a large fan base. Demand for tickets has resulted in a revamped version of Eugenius (with new music and a new look) returning to The Other Palace.
Set in 1980s Ohio, the story tells of high school geek Eugene, a fan of comic book super heroes, who spends his time drawing Sci-Fi comic strips. Eugene’s life changes when Hollywood comes calling with plans to transfer his drawings into a blockbuster movie.
Director Ian Talbot has created a fast-paced piece of theatre. Aaron Renfree’s choreography brings back memories of routines associated with 1980s pop videos, delivered with energy and precision by the talented cast, dressed in brightly coloured fluorescent leotards and leg warmers.
Andrew Ellis’s lighting design transports the viewer into an intergalactic world. On entering the auditorium, the first thing that catches your eye are the rows of yellow fairy lights that stretch across the ceiling and twinkle above the audience, replicating stars in the sky. An intentional unrealistic UFO glides across the back of the stage in classic B movie style, whilst the painted back drop depicts far away galaxies.
The distinctive voice of British actor Brian Blessed or “Space Lord” booms across the theatre as he narrates the story, drawing the audience into the world of “Tough Man” and “Evil Lord Hector”.
Daniel Buckley as Eugene’s friend Ferris, created a warm, funny character. Buckley has a great voice and superb comedic timing resulting in an excellent all-round performance.
Rob Houchen joins the cast in the lead role of Eugene; his fantastic voice soared through the auditorium and gave me goosebumps. It would be so easy to over act the geekiness of Eugene but for me Houchen’s characterisation was spot on.
Theatretastic saw Laura Baldwin in the production of Big Fish at The Other Place last year and we were impressed by her stage presence and singing voice. As Eugene’s love interest Janey, Baldwin’s accomplished acting skills and excellent singing voice combined to give an outstanding performance. Baldwin has excellent chemistry with both Buckley and Houchen and held my attention whenever she was on stage.
This is a show that does not take itself seriously. The intimate setting of The Other Palace suits this production and I really enjoyed being part of an interactive enthusiastic audience. This audience included real fans of the show as they sang along to the songs, many dressed in Eugenius merchandise. I fully understand how professional reviewers have described Eugenius as having a “cult” status as I last experienced audience participation like this when I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time many years ago.
However, for me, the strength of this musical lies in the quality performances delivered by the principle characters; the ballads are sung in a musical theatre style which in my opinion sets Eugenius apart from other “cult” musicals.
Like many of the audience I exited the auditorium with a huge smile on my face. The catchy songs ran through my head and I found myself singing “Go Eugenius, Go Eugenie”, (as discreetly as possible of course), as I left the theatre and made my way through the rain-soaked streets of London Town.
Eugenius! is at The Other Palace theatre from 1st September until 21st October 2018.
Theatretastic wishes Eugenius! every success with its planned West End transfer to the Ambassadors Theatre on 27th October until 5th January 2019.
We say: “An intergalactic, joyous, vibrant musical, with an outstanding cast that will transcend you into the galaxies and beyond! #GoEugenius!”