One of my New Years resolutions has been to not only see more theatre, but to see shows outside of the usual West End venues. I’ve already managed to do this multiple times this year, seeing fantastic productions such as Five Guys Named Moe in the Marble Arch Theatre in London. On 15th February 2018 though, I went to see Eugenius at The Other Palace. Before seeing it I knew very little – only that it was a musical, it was running for a limited amount of time, and Warwick Davis was involved in its development. In this review I’ll go through my thoughts on various parts of the production, before giving my final verdict on the show.
Seat B3 (partially restricted view)
Ticket Price £15.00
The story of the musical centres around a teenage boy named Eugene (Eugene, Eugenius, geddit?). As an unashamed geek growing up in the 80s, he has an incredible infatuation with superheros and has been developing his own names Tough Man – complete with sidekick Super Hot Lady and arch sibling nemesis Hector. With some encouragement from his admiring lady friend Janey and (sometimes creepy and annoying) best friend Feris, Eugene pitches his story idea to a Hollywood executive and is whisked off to Hollywood. Through many twists and turns Eugene ends up in a confrontation with the real Hector – yep, turns out the story was real – and must summon his inner tough man to protect his friends from inevitable doom.
I thought the plot carried the show well, while maybe being a bit confusing and flimsy at times. My favourite bit of the story actually had pretty much nothing to do with the superhero narrative, it was the evolution of Eugene and Janey’s relationship. Janey was an incredibly well written and sympathetic character. Her good heart and willingness to always do the right thing made her an easy character to root for and get behind, moreso than the title character at times.
Leading the cast are Liam Forde as Eugene and Laura Baldwin as Janey. I was completely stunned at both of their vocals, in particular Laura who was just incredible. As mentioned above Janey’s character was incredibly likeable and sympathetic, and I give Laura a lot of credit in bringing that across. Feris, played by Daniel Buckley, was funny and annoying in near equal measure. That’s not a knock on the performance though, I’m fairly sure it was the aim of the character.
In terms of other cast members, Scott Paige’s portrayal of assistance Hollywood executive Theo was wonderfully and hilariously camp. Ian Hughes played a fantastic villain in Evil Lord Hector, being able to perfectly toe the line between evil intentions and bumbling fool. Tough Man and Super Hot Lady, played by Shaun Daulton and Melissa James respectively, were also perfect in their roles as the Arnie-like beefcake and the slightly ditsy hot girl with a good heart.
The only thing I would say in terms of casting, and this is more a cautionary point than a negative, is around Mark Hamill’s role in the show. His voiceover role is minimal at best, and I wouldn’t go in expecting it to have much of a presence.
For me, this is the home run of the show. The music is just brilliant. My main lasting impression was of the upbeat and incredibly catchy Go Eugenius – you will 100% be singing it in your head for at least a week after the show. That shouldn’t take away from some of the other fantastic songs within the show, from more emotional songs like Happy Endings Don’t Exist and The Future Is Bright, to more lighthearted and funny songs like Hollywood and G.E.E.K.
I really can’t say enough good things about the music in the show. Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins have done a wonderful job, and I guess the biggest compliment I can give them is that its currently rivalling only Hamilton in my most-listened on Spotify.
Set & Choreography
The set itself was very minimal, taking place on a compact two floor setup with a large screen at the back. I couldn’t see the screen admittedly, but I was in a restricted view seat so no biggie. I did find the size of the stage did maybe hinder the choreography a bit, particularly with the dancers in the ensemble. It may have just been more noticeable because we were sitting so close, but at times it did feel like the performers were nearly getting in each others way at times. Those are just minor niggles though, I enjoyed the high paced energy of the case and how they were able to work around performing in such a small space.
Eugenius will no doubt go down as one of my most pleasant surprises of 2018. The soundtrack is incredible, and the cast had some amazing individual performances. There was some things that didn’t quite click for me, but those were just personal preferences rather than fundamental issues with the show. It is only running for another 10 days or so from the publishing of this review (until March 3rd 2018) and I’d encourage everyone to grab a ticket and check it out. If you’re not humming “Go Eugenius, Go Eugene” at the end, I’m pretty sure you’re dead inside.