Sunday, 9 September 2018

REVIEW: Eugenius! at The Other Palace

Can a person make a living by working in a creative job? According to Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins's new musicalEugenius!yes, as long as one works hard and keeps believing. 

It's the year 1988 and Eugene (Rob Houchen) is a geeky schoolboy who dreams every night about his favourite super-hero, Tough Man. A superfan of comics, he sketches scenes of Tough Man's life on a scrapbook, hoping one day to become famous for his strips. His best friends Janey (Laura Baldwin) and Feris (Daniel Buckley) believe in his talent too and, when the opportunity to shine in front of a Hollywood producer arises, their support is crucial. 

Of course, the reality of the film industry is much less glamorous than what had seemed and, when experiencing it first hand, Eugene is compelled to review his life priorities. Furthermore, the evil that he thought was only a product of his imagination, turns out to be a real challenge for him and his friends.

Despite the predictable happy ending and the archetypical traits of its characters, Eugenius!is considered a cult for its devotion to the 1980's, being imbued of references to the most renowned films and sounds of this decade. Everything can be spotted by a discerning spectator, from Marty McFly's unmistakable body-warmer to Michael Jackson's moonwalk. The hip-hop and breakdance steps in 'Who's That Guy?' are followed by evergreen romantic ballades like 'Comic Book Kind of Love'. Whereas 'Go You Genius' is a cross-breed between George Michael's Faithand Brian Adams's Summer of 69, with a catchy chorus that is bound to follow the audience home.

An extravaganza of bright-coloured lycra leotards and leg warmers invades the spray-painted set for 'She's Amazing', a clear tribute to Flashdanceand the synth-pop era, whilst 'Hands Up' is reminiscent of Bon Jovi's sexy rock and many could find in 'Evil!" a nod to the glorious Rocky Horror Picture Show.

What really makes this show so special, however, is the irresistible tongue-in-cheek humour and the exceptionally talented cast, directed with extraordinary attention to detail by Ian Talbot. Aaron Renfree's choreographies and Darren Lord's musical direction are stunning and each song is followed by the loud cheering and clapping of the audience.

The ambitions of Eugenius!to become a cult are justified by a final standing ovation and, looking at the size of the cast, this production deserves a wider stage, which wouldn't look so cramped during the ensemble scenes. Hysterically funny and impeccably written, this is the musical that all those in their late-thirties/early-forties must fall in love with.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: F23 | Price of ticket: from £39.50 (depending on dates)
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