Friday, 7 September 2018

Eugenius! The Musical | Review

Strap in and get ready to go back to the 80s as Eugenius! returns to The Other Palace for another limited run! This show is full of catchy songs, hilarious lines and heart warming moments and is guaranteed to leave you smiling, or if you're me you won't stop smiling from beginning to end!

Photo by Scott Rylander via Eugenius

Last week I headed to the first preview performance of Eugenius to see what the hype was all about, after attending the press launch earlier on in the week where I was blown away by the acoustic performances. I roughly knew the story and I knew some of the songs but I was still not sure what to expect from this show which has been propelled to success by it's dedicated fans.

Eugenius follows the story of 3 best friends and self certified geeks, Eugene, Janey and Feris who end up going on a whirlwind journey together when Eugene's comic book stories get noticed by Hollywood. You see his story about Tough Man, Super Hot Lady and Evil Lord Hector come to life in front of you combining 2 stories into one. It's also a story of love as well though and each of the 3 friends have their own paths to follow. It's packed full of 80s references including nods to Les Mis and OJ Simpson, superheroes, all things geek-y and fish people, a combination that Eugenius proves you really can't go wrong with.

Photo by Scott Rylander via Eugenius
Photo by Scott Rylander via Eugenius

This is Eugenius' second run at The Other Palace now, a small theatre that means that the set for shows can often be a little basic but they used 3 different levels to split things up and it never felt like a small scale show, they really used the little space they had effectively. The costumes for me really filled any gap that the basic set left, they tell the story and make it easy to know when there has been a location change.

Chris Wilkins and Ben Adams are the masterminds behind the book, music and lyrics and talking to them at the acoustic night you really feel that this show is their baby. At the press launch Ben talked about how they wanted every single song to be as good as the last, which is no easy task, but I really feel they have succeeded in doing this. I'm certain I could write a paragraph on every single song, because they are all stuck in my head on a loop and I was itching to hear them all again from the minute I left the theatre. There's the album on Spotify thankfully but for me it's the choreography , costumes, staging and more that make the songs so wonderful, I think you really do have to see and hear them in the show to appreciate the beauty of them.

 Photo by Scott Rylander via Eugenius
 Photo by Scott Rylander via Eugenius
Photo by Scott Rylander via Eugenius

'Go Eugenius!' and 'Don't Shoot For The Stars, Shoot Higher' have become anthems for the show, with the memorable air-punching routine of the former being performed by the audience night after night and as for the latter, fans have even gotten the line tattooed on themselves using it as an inspirational quote. Moving away from those though the ones that really stand out to me are Dan Buckley's hilarious performances of 'Who's That Guy?' and 'The No Pants Dance', the ensemble shining in 'A Little Kiss Ass' and the opening number 'Tough Man' which was the first song that Chris and Ben wrote. There really is so much more I could say about each catchy tune, accompanied by Aaron Renfree's sleek and memorable choreography and the fun 80s costumes, but you really have to see the show to appreciate each and every one.

As for the cast, we have 4 returning members but the rest are new to the show! Rob Houchen will be a familiar name for theatre fans, known for playing Marius in Les Mis and as a result I didn't see him as an obvious casting choice for the role of super geek Eugene but he had an innocence about him at times and vocally, he more than fits the bill. I spoke about how Laura Baldwin's performance of 'The Future Is Bright' at the acoustic night gave me goosebumps and her full performance in the show truly blew me away, she was so believable and really brought Janey to life. And then we have the wonderful Dan Buckley, playing Feris in the show, who had me laughing until I cried. His commitment to the role and his passion is obvious to see and he really brings to life this larger than life character that balances out the trio of best friends, his well timed inappropriate moments are a must see.

Photo by Scott Rylander via Eugenius
 Photo by Scott Rylander via Eugenius

When it came to Evil Lord Hector I'm not sure what I expected from the character, so it was even more wonderful when Neil McDermott played him with a fabulous camp-ness, like a toddler throwing his toys out the pram. On a similar note, Scott Paige had some amazing moments in the show as Hollywood talent scout Theo and he stood out whenever he was on the stage, his facial expressions and comedy timing had the crowd laughing and cheering every time. Other standout performances include the talented Emily Tierney who plays Carrie/Super Hot Lady and it was amazing seeing the debut of the new song in the show 'Hands Up', a song that clears up some of my concerns about a female character being called 'Super Hot Lady' (the feminist inside me can't help but notice this is a very male dominated show). As for the ensemble, for me it was their dancing and infectious energy that really stood out to me in numbers like 'Lex Hogan', each and every one of them were memorable and they looked like they were having a lot of fun up on stage, as did every cast member.

And that's what people keep saying about Eugenius, that it's a lot of fun and I really have to agree with that. I couldn't stop smiling during the show and my Mum, who doesn't rewatch shows as often as I do, was saying she wanted to see it again immediately after it had finished. So, trip number 2 is booked for a couple of weeks time and that's the best review I can give you really, it's so good you'll want to see it twice! Eugenius gets 5 stars from me!


On to the access and this is the part I've been so excited to write about because in my opinion The Other Palace has to be the most accessible theatre in London! Typically as a wheelchair user I can only access my seat in a theatre, sometimes I'll be able to get into the foyer area and every now and then I'll be able to access the bar but most of the time, I go straight to my seat via a different entrance to everyone else. Not at The Other Palace though. This theatre is fully accessible, I can access both auditoriums, the bar and their restaurant The Other Naughty Piglet. I don't need assistance from staff, I can have a drink before the show, I can have the full theatre experience like everyone else.

Because the theatre is so small there isn't really a bad view in there either. The wheelchair space, of which it appeared there was only one but it looked like the seats might be removable to create more, is on the back row of theatre and my ticket cost just under £15. Every now and then when the cast are on the top level of the stage some of the lights and protruding technical equipment can cover the actors heads but I really don't think you could call it a restricted view. The disabled toilet is right by the entrance to the auditorium so I didn't have far to travel in the interval, although I will say that the door is a little heavy so you may need assistance opening it. I really cannot fault the access though and I applaud the theatre for it, they really are setting the bar high for other theatres.

Eugenius! is performing at The Other Palace until October 21st, after popular demand got it a 2 week extension! Don't miss out on this spectacular show, buy your tickets here.
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