The most acclaimed superhero musical in the galaxy returns to London to save the earthlings through song, dance and a lot of camp. Guillermo Nazara shares his thoughts on this nostalgic show paying homage to 80s pop culture, to let us know about its powers and weaknesses upon his attendance to the secret headquarters.
Go, go, go, Joseph – you know what they’ve said! Ooops – wrong show. Well, maybe not that wrong. Because the vibe you’re inundated with when leaving the theatre is pretty much the same: you’ve laughed, you’ve cheered, you’ve had a jolly good time – and you get a complimentary superhero mask you have to return upon exiting. It’s all included in the experience! Putting my savageness apart (from one sec only, let’s be very clear), I must say it’s been a while since a same show has been able to amuse me in so many different ways – it’s genuinely funny, it has an interesting and moving storyline and some of the music achieves what most new theatrical scores seem to be completely empty of: hummable tunes.
Eugenius! is, as its writers describe, a love letter to the 80s and all the entertainment so many grew up with – not me, though, I’m still young (yay – my shady powers have returned!). Penned by composer and librettist Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins, the musical follows the lead of its printed idols: a simple storyline where good conquers evil by using every possible cliche in the book. And Great Scott, does it work well!
Poking fun (with immense fondness, though) at the arch types DC and Marvel instructed us with (and now social media fighters long to save us from), this joyful spectacle of camp and nostalgia is an absolute ball of energy – blasting through every number and filling its audience with the same enthusiasm it’s built on. Moving with incredibly good rhythm (it’s surprising how not one single moment in the whole show feels unnecessary), this beautiful score could however take more advantage of its charm: as several songs (the “I want” solo in particular) seem too short and unexplored, while the ending of others is undefined and unable to lead to the thunderous applause it deserves – Amadeus taught me something, after all. At the same time, some of the lyrics are in need of some further tweaks, since while the words joking about the superhero genre are smart and intuitive, the ones dealing with the characters’ inner quests need to deepen a bit more into their psyche.
But no minor flaws are going to prevent you from having a most upbeat experience, as the other gem hiding (or perhaps, showing off) in this multi-universe is its superb cast. Starring Elliott Evans as Eugene (the boy genius who creates a superhero story masterpiece and for which the writers definitely used me as their inspiration), the rapport and high standards of the whole company are more than a fair reason to venture into the Turbine Theatre. Delightful acting and even more staggering vocals, the skills demonstrated in this performance, with some of the actors transforming into 4 or 5 well-defined roles with chameleonic capability, are a mention impossible to decline. Shining with even more glimmer are Dom Andersen as the charismatic Tough Man, the sound and struggling Dad and the cute dim-wit Gerhard and Rhys Taylor as the bitchy though adorable Theo. In addition, Joseph Beach is an undeniable show-stealer thanks to his hilarious energetic rendition of the Evil Lord – a super-villain I can only wish to be like one day.
I’ve been literally overwhelmed with messages since last night asking about this production and if the hype is really worth it. I must say it is. Its journey to the West End may have been interrupted, but certainly has not been erased. Here comes a show by a clearly talented songwriting partnership that’s bound to make a bigger impact someday. It pains me to say it as a critic, but I do really want to see it again. I must confess, though, that I’ve felt a bit disappointed with it – as I hoped to follow the musical’s hero Tough Man’s motto and write a review that was tough but fair. This just ended up being good and fair.
All pictures credit to Pamela Reith.
Eugenius! plays at London’s Turbine Theatre from Tuesday to Sunday until 28 May. Tickets are available on the following link.