Geeks have long been a mainstay in popular culture, but it wasn’t until recently that they have become heroes in seemingly impossible stories. Usually the role of the geek was reserved for the timid sidekick or as a brief comedy relief character. Today, however, geeks have become respected, and sometimes they even get the girl. In Eugenius, the lead character Eugene is an uber-geek whose comic strip gets picked up by a film studio. This is where we get to see his characters come to life and learn that Eugene himself could be a fantastic superhero.
Eugenius is currently playing at The Other Palace in London’s West End. The production is relatively tight, humorous, and enjoyable. However, it is not without its flaws. The script itself is somewhat confusing and convoluted, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality in a way that is not very receptive to the audience. There are certain lines that, despite this being a new story, seem outdated and at times downright inappropriate. Yes, the story takes place in the 1980s, but it seems a rather bold move to bring some of these references to the stage, especially in a tale that hasn’t quite gotten its bearings.
Rob Houchen gives an admirable performance as Eugene, the geeky title character who is catapulted to fame. He truly captures the mannerisms and insecurities of a prototypical geek and so does Laura Baldwin playing Janey, who has the most amazing voice. Houchen draws on all the right stereotypes but makes the performance his own, giving us just enough individuality to truly identify with the character. He balances his comedic ability with dramatic effect and shows us plenty of humanity.
The villains are an excellent part of the production as well. Neil McDermott puts on a menacing but hilarious performance as Evil Lord Hector. There is an undeniable chemistry between the actors on stage, and it is one of the shows strengths. They are able to navigate the lackluster script and turn it into a story that keeps the audience engaged.
Where the production really shines is the music and direction. The score is chock full of catchy, upbeat songs that may stay in your head for days after your viewing. The choreography is on-point and the dance numbers are impressive while maintaining a certain level of whimsy that must be hard in a musical about a geek. It was easy to see that the audience thoroughly enjoyed the musical numbers and anxiously awaited the next one during certain down times in the script.
Overall, Eugenius is a fun performance that tells a heartwarming story and has the ability to pull at the heart strings. It suffers from a somewhat confusing script that doesn’t quite live up to expectations, but it is still worth seeing. The music and dancing provide plenty of entertainment even if the story falls flat in the end.