When Eugenius The Musical concluded its final performance at The Other Palace in 2018, to a six minute standing ovation, it was destined for a West End transfer, though it would turn out that not even Tough Man could save the show from theatre’s kryptonite – the investors. The show’s die hard fans (Eugenies) were left believing this feel good, eighties inspired, comic book musical was lost forever.
But every good superhero movie deserves a sequel, and Eugenius The Musical has returned for another run, this time at the Turbine Theatre. It’s being called a reworked version, but fans of the original will be pleased to know that little has changed, and what has is all for the good. Eugenius is back, and it’s better than ever.
Certainly, it’s now playing in a smaller theatre, and like biceps in spandex, you can feel it straining at the seams, desperately calling out for a bigger stage. Yet Andrew Exeter’s set design and impactful lighting works perfectly, using comic book like projections to take us into the world of Eugene, Janey and Feris.
It’s still a story about a geek who finds all his dreams come true, in more ways than one, and it’s still an inspiring story of friendship that tells us not to reach for the stars, but to reach higher. Part of the charm of Eugenius is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously; it’s meant to be a camp and colourful nostalgia trip to the 1980’s, something director Hannah Chissick has embraced wholeheartedly, and it’s packed so full of hilarious and kitsch references you could see the show half a dozen times and still be discovering new ones.
Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins’ songs are like musical theatre heaven, with gorgeous power ballads and high energy dance numbers. Aaron Renfree’s choreography belies the small stage, and that now iconic dance move still gets the audience going in the final number. The production also takes advantage of the smaller space by occasionally bringing the cast out into the audience – there’s a particularly fun moment during ‘Don’t Shoot For The Stars Shoot Higher’.
One big change is a gender swap for the character Lex Hogan, which works incredibly well, especially with some powerhouse vocals from Lara Denning. Hogan’s evilness is surpassed only by Lord Hector, played to full comic effect by Joseph Beach.
The act two opener, ‘Hands Up’ shows off the talents of Maddison Firth as Carrie, and Rhys Taylor nails Theo’s hilarious one-liners – pay close attention for a humdinger Patti LuPone reference.
It’s in the trio of friends at the heart of the story that audiences will be most enamoured. Jaina Brock-Patel and James Hameed bounce off each other perfectly as Janey and Feris, each getting their own moment to shine with ‘The Future’s Bright’ and ‘Who’s That Guy?’ respectively.
Holding it all together is a superb performance from Elliot Evans; soaring vocals and the ability to connect with both the story and the audience means the future really is bright for this young actor.
This reviewer described the previous run as a ‘lightning bolt of pure joy’, and it turns out, in the case of Eugenius, lightning really does strike twice. Quite simply, this is a tremendously good, fun, night out, with cracking songs, and a cast who, together, are mighty. Perhaps it’s time for the ‘Eugenies’ to assemble, and make Eugenius the sell-out success it deserves to be.