Eugenius is the latest new musical to hit the Other Palace, opening on the 22nd January and running until 3rd March. The show is set in the 1980’s and is a love letter to this period. It tells of Eugene, a teenage boy who dreams of a distant world of hero’s and villains. In the morning when he wakes he sketches these dreams down and they may just be the ticket to him creating his very own comic movie book in Hollywood. Hollywood however soon turns out to be nothing like Eugene had expected and Janey and Feris decide that Eugene needs saving and to come back where he belongs. Eugene must discover the true meaning of growing up, finding the superhero within, saving the world from both earthbound villains and possibly those from distant galaxies and along the way falling in love.
The cast is choc full of musical theatre names, including Laura Baldwin as Janey who we recently saw in Big Fish at The Other Palace, Cameron Blakely fresh from his stint as Gomez in the Addams Family along with Scott Paige (who was on for Fester the night I saw Addams Family). Making his London debut is American, Liam Forde as Eugene.
The show is written by Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins who are new to writing for musical theatre and directed by Ian Talbot, previously Artistic Director of Regents Park Open Air Theatre. In June 2016 there was concert version at the Palladium, which the writers ‘described as a risky workshop’ but that risk seemed to pay off!
I was lucky enough to be invited into the rehearsal room to check out a sneak preview of some of the performances as well as interview some of the cast and creative team. We were treated to 4 songs: ‘Little Kick Ass’ which was one of the more ‘musicaltheatre-esq’ songs, ‘Don’t Shoot For The Stars’ where Janey and Feris have been left at home and Janey has to convince Feris to rescue Eugene from the set of a Hollywood movie, ‘Go Eugenius,’ the flagship song from the show and ‘Comic Book Kind of Love,’ where Janey and Eugene finally realise that they love each other. Excitingly we were also told that the album of Eugenius is being released on the 19th January. Head over to my social media channels to see some of the extracts from these songs.
We also had a chanced to chat to some of the cast including Liam Ford, Laura Baldwin, Cameron Blakely, Ian Hughes, Scott Paige, Daniel Buckley and Shaun Dalton as well as Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins who wrote the show, Ian Talbot who directs it and Aaron Rentree the choreographer.
The show started thanks to Ben and Chris repeatedly saying that they wanted to write a musical together. Ben tells us that:
‘Aided by 5 pints in Clapham we thought now is the right time to write a musical and that’s when we got round the piano. Most songs you write when you are drunk are very bad but when we woke up in the morning that’s when we discovered it wasn’t very bad it was very good.’
Their first song was ‘Tough Man’ which opens the current production and when the show opens on the 22nd it will be 4 years to the day since they wrote that song. At the initial stages there were no producers lined up and no deadlines, allowing Ben and Chris the freedom to create what they wanted. Both of them are big musical theatre fans and big 80’s fans so they found it thrilling to be able to put everything they loved into a melting pot. Whilst this is Ben and Chris’ first musical when the musical began to take off they worked closely with the experienced team around them making sure that every song and line were there for a reason.
Both Daniel Buckley and Shaun Dalton were in the Palladium production and in fact, Dalton’s involvement dates back to the original workshop. Even the cast that weren’t involved in the Palladium production wanted to get in on the action following the hype and managed to find themselves in the first full scale production of the show.
The show is set in the 1980’s which the cast seem to have embraced wholeheartedly. The cast were referred back to movies like ‘The Goonies’ and other iconic films and as a result the audience will recognise many of the themes or references as well as get a nostalgia trip. Daniel Buckley went so far as to buy a collectors set of 1980’s films on Blu-Rays to watch, appreciate and refer back to!
The original score reflects the huge 80’s sounds. When asked about their favourite song in the show this sparked a lot of debate amongst the cast. Scott Paige admitted to going home being unable to stop humming the songs. Many of them quote that ‘Comic Book Kind of Love’ or ‘Don’t Shoot For the Stars,’ is their favourite. Laura Baldwin admitted that ‘Don’t Shoot For The Stars’ made her feel like a genuine superhero. I can’t wait to hear them all fully to decide my own favourite!!
For those that know the Other Palace they will know that it is a smaller venue (seats 312) compared the Palladium. The cast and creatives are excited about this as it generates intimacy. Ian Talbot says that the simplicity of the set and a smaller cast than one might envisage for this show is also an asset.
“The ensemble aren’t just ensemble, they take on different characters, they have texture and they’ve got individuality. I would fight if it has a future life that we don’t get a huge company.”
Ian Hughes plays ‘Evil Lord Hector’ and loves the fact that the comic book character admits to what his is up front and that there is no duplicity about it. Whilst the show focuses on comic book heros and villians and the ‘geeks’ and ‘nerds’ that are passionate about them Forde explains that the show transcends this. He defines nerdiness as anyone who is intensely passionate about something and that these are the ones who go the furthest. It’s about driving passion and following your instinct, a theme that many of us can relate to!
After seeing this cast in action and hearing about the show from everyone I’m mega excited to see it. See it for yourself and book tickets for Eugenius on The Other Palace’s website. In the meantime keep you eyes peeled for my review of the show following Press Night. Thanks to the cast and creatives for allowing me into your world for a snake peak!