The Other Palace Theatre has transformed its stage to the cosmic and intergalactic new production Eugenius!, which sends audiences back into the dreamy 80’s. For the oldies, like myself, it’s as if I never left. For anyone who wants to celebrate their childhood love of Thunder Cats, HeMan or 80’s movies, with the likes of Star Wars, Freddie Krueger or E.T., Eugenius! is the one to watch, but be prepared for heaps of cheese, 80’s fashion and cringe.
The Other Palace Theatre has just turned one year’s old and Eugenius! kick-starts its 2018 with an all-round inspiring and feel-good musical, directed by Sir Ian Talbot. Ben Adams (songwriter and producer for artists including Craig David and Alexander Burke) and Chris Wilkins (songwriter and voiceover artist) wrote Eugenius!, which was first showcased in the UK in 2016 at the London Palladium. Multi-talented actor and singer Liam Forde is the show’s comic book geek Eugene and Laura Baldwin performs as Eugene’s friend zoned pal Janey who is just as nerdy as he is but glows with extra sassiness. While Daniel Buckley truly impresses the audience with his moonwalking, rapping, vocal harmony and charm, putting the cool kids to shame with his courage and freaky naughtiness.
Eugene’s fictional comic book hero is Tough Man (Shaun Dalton) who has perfect blond hair and huge biceps. He uses his power to save earthlings from the wrath of his evil twin Lord Hector (Ian Hughes). Accompanying Tough Man is the strong Super Hot Lady (Melissa James) with her ‘oh la la’ power outfit. Remember the 80’s loved their spandex, headbands and fishnet gloves, so you’ll see plenty of that.
Eugene wins a competition to work with tycoon producer Lex Hogan (Cameron Blakely) and make his comic book story a Hollywood blockbuster, yet things go a bit sideways when Lex takes control of Eugene’s original ideas. Janey sees through Lex’s money-making motives and tells Eugene. He is left to decide between his friendship and life back in Tatooine, Ohio or making it big in Hollywood and kissing Lex’s ass.
The range of talent from acting, singing vocals to dancing choreography is astonishing. Kudos to Scott Paige, Alexander Evans, Brian Gilligan and Alison Arnopp for their compelling performances and vocal range. The ensemble of brilliant and electrifying dancers shouldn’t go amiss either, including Jacob Fisher, Frances Dee, Rosie Heath, Chloe Chambers and Luke Dowling.
Eugenius!, in many ways, brings home the message that we all have a superhero inside of us, and as much as it may sound silly, one cannot deny how catchy the melodies and lyrics are. Stepping back into reality, from the interval or the climactic ending, it’s like being dragged down from the stars. The ecstatic and uplifting emotions which Eugenius! emit are hard to ignore.
I want to praise this show for its inventiveness and the collective effort from the cast and creative crews, but I should raise an issue with a few lines and jokes which shocked some audiences last night. Perhaps they weren’t ready for it, but neither was I. That said, do we need be reminded that Eugenius! isn’t a political musical? Circumstances and situations that are considered unacceptable today were ‘cool’ back then, such as ladies with big boobs running in skin-tight swimming costumes in slow-mo. That was, all, pretty normal. However, in a post-Weinstein world where we are wary about the happening behind Hollywood’s closed doors more than ever before, we are hypersensitive to any reference to sexuality. Despite this, I don’t believe this is the message Eugenius! is trying to send out. I doubt Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins intended to offend anyone. It’s funny, cheeky and a great night out. Get your ticket before it sells out.