The Other Palace, London – until 3 March 2018
This warm-hearted and nostalgic musical is delightfully entertaining to watch take flight.
Having first appeared in a concert performance at the London Palladium in 2016, this hilariously nostalgic musical by Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins has grown into a confident and joyous production.
Directed by Ian Talbot, Eugenius! follows the story of Eugene a comic book geek (not nerd – which is something
completely different apparently) whose own creation Tough Man soon comes to the attention of those working in Hollywood. But with the evil Lord Hector on the loose to scupper the film a lot of chaos ensues and Eugene is forced to find the hero within to save the day.
Crammed with 1980s cultural references, Ian Talbot’s production is a celebration of that decade from Hannah Woolfe’s costumes all the way through to the music and lyrics by Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins (which seem to contain certain similarities to songs that were released in the 80s). But it contains a wonderful and infectious spirit about it that endears the audience to the story, style and music from beginning to end.
The musical positively encourages you to embrace your inner geek and to celebrate whatever you have a passion for because that is what makes you who you are. This is particularly showcased in numbers such as ‘G.E.E.K’ and ‘Who’s That Guy’ that offers a sense of pride in standing up for yourself.
But this new British musical has a wonderful soundtrack as a whole with plenty of gems for the audience to enjoy including the corny ‘Tough Man’, the anthem that is ‘Go You Genius’ (which had the audience joining in with the finale) and the lovely ‘Don’t Shoot for the Stars, Shoot Higher’. Each song really captures the characters personalities and suit the overall style of the show well, thanks to Adams and Wilkins’ ability to create memorable melodies and lyrics.
It would be fair to say that the production could have been slightly more adventurous with its staging, at times appearing slightly too cramped (particularly with the dreaded fish people on stage) and the book could have been sharper, driving the story forward with more pace. But these are minor complaints when you are having so much fun along the way.
Along the way there are some fabulous performances. Not least Daniel Buckley as Ferris whose performance is endearing and instantly likeable, while his rapping and breakdancing routine during ‘Who’s That Guy’ is a delight to watch and a highlight of the production. Meanwhile, Laura Baldwin is sweet and lovely as Janey – a perfectly pitched performance in terms of her characterisation but also vocally as heard during ‘The Future’s Bright’ , while Liam Forde excels as the geeky, shy and unconfident Eugene, whose performance grows as the character begins to blossom. Mention should also go to Ian Hughes as Evil Lord Hector whose flamboyancy enhances much of the comedy in the show, while Cameron Blakely is suitably nasty as Lex the Hollywood director.
Overall, there is no denying the fun appeal of this show, which never takes itself too seriously and it is quite clear that everybody involved is having the time of their lives. Eugenius really is a genius musical!