It was only at the beginning of this year that Eugenius! made its astonishing five-star debut at The Other Palace, but as the marketing attests, lightning really can strike twice. While some of the mainstream media initially failed to see the shows appeal, a legion of ‘superfans’ made their feelings clear, Eugenius! had to return.
So, it’s back to The Other Palace with a slightly updated version and an even bigger audience response. It’s not hard to see why it’s so popular, Eugenius! has all the right ingredients; a loveable underdog, a kooky friend, a love interest and… um…fish people. Yes, it’s wacky and sometimes weird, but it’s also a lightning bolt of pure joy.
The original cast were faultless, and those who have returned provide continuity to the new dynamic created by the incoming cast members. Anyone who thinks Rob Houchen is “too Les Mis” for the role of Eugene need to get themselves down to The Other Palace and see the accomplished and skilful performance he delivers as the comic book writing geek.
Also new is Neil McDermott in the role of Evil Lord Hector, and what a privilege it is to see such a masterful delivery of the comedy villain, McDermott has flipped the character on its head and given it a whole new angle. It’s as Eugene’s friends that returning cast members Laura Baldwin and Dan Buckley steal the show. Ferris’s loveable, if sometimes inappropriate, bravado is perfectly matched to Janey’s strong will, while Baldwin’s performance of ‘The Future is Bright’ is set to become an iconic moment in musical theatre.
I do have a personal favourite amongst the characters and it’s Theo Schlong, played with sublime sass by Scott Paige, his comic timing is genius, and his facial expressions alone can reduce the audience to hysterics, yes Theo, this is my kind of Disco! But it’s clear that the Eugenius! family is a close knit one, and the entire ensemble, particularly Alex Tranter, Ben Darcy and Lauren Concannon pull together with contagious gusto.
‘Hands Up’ is a new song introduced to the top of Act 2, it’s the perfect opener to the high energy revelry which is about to follow, it’s also a stunning performance from Emily Tierney who gives a wonderfully astute portrayal of Carrie/Super Hot Lady.
That extraordinary score from Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins has only improved, and is still supremely catchy, the blend of powerful ballads with high energy anthems is hugely uplifting. Forget the kooky comedy angle for a second, and you realise this is musical theatre writing at it’s most exquisite.
With only a few minor changes the staging feels cleaner, and under the direction of Ian Talbot there’s a clear feeling of go big or go home. This is most evident in ‘Hollywood’ which sees a less cluttered stage give prominence to Aaron Renfree’s glorious choreography, which is so striking it has even inspired a #GoEugenius dance move, resulting in the majority of the audience fist pumping in rhythmic glee during the finale.
Thanks to super fans, and the creative team taking a chance on a quirky show with unexpected casting, Eugenius! has returned in a blaze of glory, a musical that can bring unprecedented levels of exhilaration to its audience. Here’s hoping lightning strikes for a third time, after all – I’ve finally learned Aaron Renfree’s ‘Go Eugenius’ dance moves, and it would be a shame if they didn’t get another outing.