The Other Palace
1 February 2018
The creation of any new musical can be a tricky process. Trying to find the right subject, setting the tone and finding the right creative team are only part of the puzzle. So, I must congratulate Kevin and George Wood and Warwick Davis and everybody involved with Eugenius for the Herculean effort in bringing this new musical to the stage. With a book, music and lyrics by Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins, there’s a lot to recommended with Eugenius!, but any major staging also makes blatantly obvious the problems that need to be tackled to take the show to the next stage.
Much of what I saw on stage in Eugenius! reminded me of Loserville, the British musical that had a limited run at the Garrick many years ago. Brash and at times exciting, there seemed to be an enormous wave of goodwill pouring from the audience onto the stage. Energy which the cast seemed to feed on and return tenfold.
Eugenius! is the story of Eugene, who’s talent for comic book creation sees him channel real events in a distant galaxy, When one of his creations ‘Tough Man’ is picked up by a dodgy movie studio, an evil villain (Tough Guy’s brother) confuses the movie for the real thing and arrives to cause havoc and seek revenge.
On the positive side, the cast of Eugenius! are nothing short of wonderful. The central trio of Eugene (Liam Forde), Janey (Laura Baldwin) and Feris (Daniel Buckley) are a triumph. You couldn’t ask for nerds more nerdier. Ian Hughes as Evil Lord Hector is pure cartoon villian and a perfect contract to Shaun Dalton’s Gerhard/Tough Man who spends most of the evening channeling his inner comic Schwartzenegger. Add in Cameron Blakeley’s Studio Boss Lex and his fabulous assistant Theo played with flair by Scott Paige, together with an ensemble that works incredibly hard to create school kids, fish people, and various other incidental characters. Some wonderful voicework from the sublime Brian Blessed gives Eugenius a palpable cult feeling that certainly had me smiling.
The Eugenius! band led by Darren Lord provide a fab retro power rock beat for some of the most infectious tunes I’ve heard in a rock musical for a while. The show’s title track in particular has lodged itself in my head and to date is still whizzing around in there.
Ian Talbot’s production is tight and as efficient as could be. Where Eugenius falls down is in its book which is a bit muddy and confused. It might pay to bring in a book writer to look at clarifying and expanding the narrative. On a personal note I was ready to shoot the lighting designer and operators by the end of the show having spent half the evening with on stage lighting beaming directly into my eyes.
I’m looking forward to the next outing for Eugenius! to see where the show’s creators take this original musical. It has enormous potential and if goodwill can be measured from the audience, a great many people wishing it to succeed.