London Palladium – 29 June 2016
For one night only, Eugenius! played at the London Palladium in a concert premiere production of this new musical. As the (lavishly workshopped) show is now entering its final phase of development there is no star rating here, rather an assessment of the performance.
Eugenius! makes for a curious tale. Tracking an implausible yarn of two brothers separated at birth, this ain’t no Blood Brothers, nor, with its focus upon geeky adolescents is it much of a Loserville either. Dipping in and out of a fictional world dreamed up by Eugene, there’s a bizarre science fiction twist that sees (co-producer) Warwick Davis also play the Evil Lord Hector, who has now evolved into an extra-terrestrial bad guy out to wreak revenge on his earthling brother.
There’s a love interest too, but overall, much like Lord Hector’s return from across the galaxies, it’s all a bit far-fetched, with the show lacking the ribald pantomime humour of I Can’t Sing! (another show endowed with an exclamation mark in the title…), the last new British musical to play the Palladium. Is Eugenius! aiming at the 30/40-something audience for whom the 80s references maybe spot-on but who might expect much more meat in the narrative? Or is it aiming at a much younger audience, in which case some of the adult nuance is at best inappropriate, and at times mildly offensive? Either way, Eugenius! is a very lightweight offering with a story that needs some serious treatment and a running time crying out to be trimmed by at least 30 minutes.
Aside from a ghastly ticketing glitch that led to a 30 minute delay, the production values on the night were impressive. A stellar cast led well drilled ensembles from Laine Theatre Arts and Arts Ed, with Aaron Renfree choreographing some slick routines.
David Bedella as a cynical TV producer was his usual infernally wonderful self, with Amy Lennox and Summer Strallen sharing the honours as leading ladies in the show’s real and fictional worlds. Fine work too from Norman Bowman, Daniel Buckley and Samuel Holmes in support, with Louis Maskell (in strong voice) leading as the eponymous Eugene.
Ian Talbot and Mike Jibson directing made decent use of the modest staging constraints imposed upon the production and credit to Andrew Ellis whose lightning designs throughout were consistently stunning.
Last night Eugenius! was well endowed with one of the finest companies in town, both acting and creative, but as it stands it has simply been rolled in glitter. This is a show that needs careful polishing.