Review - Eugenius! (The Other Palace)

Eugenius! The upbeat 80s musical is back from outer space and zapping joy into the hearts of audiences at The Other Palace once again. The spoofy sci-fi show, with book, music and lyrics by Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins has been building towards cult status since it first appeared on stage at the Palladium Theatre back in 2016, and with its infectious pop score, magnificently silly plot, and overarching message that the geeks shall inherit the earth, it’s easy to see why.
Laura Baldwin, Rob Houchen and Daniel Buckley in Eugenius!
Photo credit - Scott Rylander
Eugene is a weedy kid from Ohio whose dreams are inhabited by uber macho superhero Tough Man and his bratty estranged twin Evil Lord Hector, who Eugene immortalises in comic book form. When a Hollywood producer sends one of his lackeys in search of the next big Hollywood script, Eugene‘s comic is snapped up and he is whisked away to sunny Los Angeles, to watch his dreams come true. Literally. As Evil Lord Hector really does appear on set, armed with a laser gun and desperate to coax his brother out of hiding for a final showdown.

Eugenius! is a musical with a lot going for it. It’s fun, flashy (thanks to Andrew Ellis’ pops of neon lighting), and nostalgic, with a cracking cast who bring the story to life, channelling the huge, stereotypical performances which typified 80s flicks.

Rob Houchen leads the cast as Eugene. Houchen has an understated presence compared to his cast mates, but it’s one which instantly endears. Plus, it’s as if he was born to sing the musical’s retro pastiche tunes. Eugene may be the bullies’ verbal (and increasingly, as the plot advances, physical) punching bag, but Houchen is so supremely likable that it’s no wonder his fellow dorks (Laura Baldwin and Daniel Buckley’s Janey and Feris) orbit around him.
Laura Baldwin and Rob Houchen in Eugenius!
Photo credit - Scott Rylander
Baldwin gives an absolute gem of a performance. Sweet, gawky, and utterly infatuated with her bestie Eugene, Janey is a character which most people will empathise with. Baldwin also gets to belt out one of Eugenius!’s best songs The Future Is Bright, accompanied by a trio of perfectly synchronised backing singers, with a fan to blow her hair back in true melodramatic 80s music video style! Buckley also gets some prime material as funny friend Feris, getting some of the biggest laughs in the show thanks to a barrage of puerile jokes, sold with a mischievous grin.

The rest of the cast is equally impressive, with particular standout performances coming from Emily Tierney and Simon Thomas as a duo of hapless actors (Tierney is Carrie, a wide eyed wannabe starlet who makes up for her lack of dance ability with full out enthusiasm, meanwhile Thomas plays Gerhard, an actor from the Arnold Schwarzenegger school of flexing).
Emily Tierney and the cast of Eugenius!
Photo credit - Scott Rylander
Eugenius! may be over-the-top entertainment, which doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it also tries to tackle some pretty prominent modern day controversies. And unfortunately this is the only area which it really falls short. Comments on Hollywood sleaze and Geek Culture sexism don’t come out quite self-aware enough, and as a result sometimes the protagonists are tinged with a bit of sleaze themselves. Although that being said, its heart is obviously in the right place.

Filled with dorky charm and radiating self-love, friendship and acceptance Eugenius! is an addictive piece of musical theatre which will have audiences singing and dancing all the way to Victoria!

I was invited to review Eugenius! thanks to London Box Office