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Christian Durham

Review: EUGENIUS at The Other Palace

Eugenius! - The Eunique New Musical In the programme notes of EUGENIUS, Andrew Lloyd Webber states that he wants The Other Palace to be a ‘space where writers and producers can try out and refine their work’. By taking away the need for big sets and automation, the focus can be on ‘the writing of the show itself’. EUGENIUS seems the perfect example of this ethos. After a rather confusing and troubled workshop in 2016, Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins have taken the time to crystalise their vision and clarify the story of this quirky American 80’s Geek-fest.

Eugene draws comic book stories in between being bullied at school and coping with a disappointing family life. However after winning a competition, he leaves all that behind and soon finds himself in Hollywood writing a movie based on his ‘Tough Man’ and ‘Super Hot Lady’ characters.

Little does he know, his comic book villain actually exists and Evil Lord Hector turns up on set ready to kill Tough Man. Will Eugene be able to step into his hero’s shoes and save the world?

It sounds like a mad idea for a musical but Adams and Wilkins fill the stage with likeable or hissable characters, lashing of comedy and catchy tunes. EUGENIUS also doesn’t always settle for stereotypes. Janey, Eugene’s friend, is far more than just the ‘love interest’. She is a proud and confident Geek, who won’t be shamed or bullied by anyone.

Alongside the bonkers plot, the references to 80’s culture come thick and fast. Some cause you to groan in remembrance, others make you simply laugh out loud. Affectionate sneaky nods to musicals like Blood Brothers, Chicago, Les Mis, Flashdance come at you non-stop.

There are places where the piece still needs work. The odd song struggles to land, gags need fine tuning but this workshop presentation can only get stronger in front of live audiences.

There is great anthemic choreography from Aaron Renfree plus Andrew Ellis’ lights and Gareth Owens slick sound enhance the simplicity of the set and costumes.

The cast are all high octane with stand outs from Laura Baldwin as Janey, Daniel Buckley’s both gross and loveable Feris and Ian Hughes’ frenetic comic Evil Lord Hector.

The Finale of the piece sums up the potential of EUGENIUS. Big and brash, with key changes just where they should be.

Eugenius - The Musical