Back by phenomenal demand, Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins’ Eugenius! makes a triumphant return to The Other Palace, for a strictly limited six week run. The latest in a line of musicals to garner cult status, a return engagement was inevitable; empowering a modern generation of underdogs to discover their confidence and unique self-expression.
A coming-of-age teenage love story set against a backdrop of superheroes and comic books, Eugenius! is steeped in 80’s pop culture references – an homage to the great sounds and cinema of B-movie Hollywood. Ian Talbot’s direction is deliciously camp and Andrew Ellis’ lighting, paired with Dan Samsom’s sound, capture every POW! WHACK! and CRASH! found in popular sci-fi comics. However, it’s Hannah Wolfe’s set and DIY inspired costume design that has meant something vital. Anyone, regardless of budget, size or physical ability, can transform into a hero. This cosplay factor has been hugely important to Eugenius! fandom, with the self-named ‘Eugenies,’ a legion of incredibly loyal fans, returning night after night as their favourite characters, to provide a collective energy that is completely palpable and infectious.
A mix of new and returning cast members; Rob Houchen makes his premiere as Eugene, offering an honest and understated performance as the loveable cartoon-drawing geek. Laura Baldwin and Daniel Buckley both reprise their roles as best friends, Janey and Feris; maintaining all the heart and masterful delivery from the original production. Neil McDermott has been newly cast as the Evil Lord Hector, providing a fresh and comedic take on the arch nemesis and supervillain, and a hilarious Scott Paige steals the show as the flamboyant Theo Schlong. The addition of new song, ‘Hands Up,’ fits in well at the start of Act 2, and is well-executed by Emily Tierney. However, it’s a shame that Super Hot Lady is presented more as a dumb blonde stereotype than the kick-ass, empowered female role it could be.
A reminder that anything is possible, it’d be great to see Eugenius! push the boundaries of fantasy further, particularly in the way of race and disability. Warwick Davis playing the original Evil Lord Hector at The Palladium, was an inspired choice and there are certainly Eugene’s in wheelchairs somewhere, as there should be. A fan phenomenon and a bizarre yet empowering piece of musical theatre, Eugenius! shows the intersection of lovers, oddballs, misfits and geek cultures; although you don’t have to be any of the previous to enjoy the hell out of it!