Eugenius! premiered in a concert production at the London Palladium in 2016, before a fully staged production of the show ran at The Other Palace in 2018. The show was due to transfer to the West End the same year, but unfortunately, this did not happen. Now, the show is back, this time at the Turbine Theatre.

Eugenius! gathered somewhat of a cult following during its last couple of runs, with a reputation of being theatrical marmite, as previously it was rated both 1-star and 5-star by critics.

Credit: Pamela Raith

Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins’ book is set in Ohio during the 80s, and centres around three geeks: Eugene, Janey, and Ferris. Eugene (Elliott Evans) draws and writes comic books based on his superhero, Tough Man, and very quickly Eugene’s life changes as the comic is picked up by a Hollywood producer.

The show’s superpower is its score, also by Adams and Wilkins, with influences from eighties music evident throughout. The music is lively, unique, and catchy, some numbers have more of a pop music feel to them, but some also stand out as musical theatre numbers. Evans gets a chance to display his beautiful vocals in ‘Comic Book Kind Of Love’, a contrasting number filled with emotion.

The performances of the cast are strong, but the material doesn’t quite allow for complexity – with most of the characters feeling quite one-dimensional. Jaina Brock-Patel plays an endearing Janey, Rhys Taylor is hilarious, and gloriously camp, as Theo – but the star of this show is Joseph Beach as Evil Lord Hector. Beach plays a Super Villain exactly as one would want them to be portrayed. He elevates every moment possible and is completely evil, completely ridiculous, and completely hilarious.

Credit: Pamela Raith

Unfortunately, the choreography is limited by the small size of the stage, and although Aaron Renfree attempts to utilise all the available space – most of the dancing is static, with performers remaining in one spot. I also noticed that there are times when the choreography consisted of actions corresponding to the lyrics being sung, a simple concept that’s not always the most satisfying option.

Throughout the script references to pop culture and the 80s are interwoven, and there are even some nods to musical theatre, which is a little detail I enjoyed. I don’t think you’ll notice them all on first viewing as there are so many, but they add wit and humour to the script, creating some comical moments.

Andrew Exeter’s set is bold, and eye-catching from the moment you enter the space. The highlight of this is Andy Walton and Exeter’s video design – which projects comic book-style animations onto the wall. These are colourful and bright, and perfectly bring the production to life, ensuring the show is visually appealing and exciting to watch throughout the run time. This also negates the need for set pieces and staging changes, which is a good idea for a show in such a small space.

Credit: Pamela Raith

Although there are some enjoyable aspects of the show, namely the score, video design, and performances, there’s quite a lot here which needs polishing. The book is predictable, and the story isn’t that exciting, plus the characters created in the show lack nuances and don’t feel fully formed. The pacing could be improved, as there were moments in which the show felt unnecessarily drawn out. Plus I believe the end of Act One in a musical should have a big number which makes you want to return after the interval, and I feel this is absent here.

Whilst Eugenius! is a fun show, I’m not sure its gained all its superpowers quite yet.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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