Due to “events, dear boy, events”, certain producers have been scrambling to provide online content to tide audiences over until such time as it is safe theatres and other venues to re-open. One of the first production teams to make their show available to the masses, free of charge, is the team behind Eugenius The Musical. I had intended to see the show during its planned West End run, having secured a transfer from The Other Palace Theatre, but the run never happened in the end: nothing to do with Covid-19, as the run was to have taken place towards the end of 2019. A key investor pulled out at the eleventh hour, and an alternative funding source could not be found in time.
The show takes its audiences back to 1988, when, according to the Space Lord (the voice of Brian Blessed), it was “a simpler time for earthlings where hair was big, colours were neon, and Milli Vanilli pretended to sing. But in the dreams of a boy named Eugene (Rob Houchen), things were far more complex. A disaster loomed as beings far beyond our reckoning invaded!” A world of science fiction, then – well, a superhero, to be more precise, called Tough Man (Simon Thomas) who would take on the Evil Lord Hector (Neil McDermott) in (quelle surprise) yet another triumph of good over evil.
In terms of narrative, then, there isn’t much that can’t be seen elsewhere. But at least this show has the good grace to acknowledge some of the sources of its material, with nods to the likes of Star Wars and at one point, even the stage version of Les Misérables. Eugene is socially distant, to coin a phrase, one of those schoolboys that isn’t part of the in-crowd, like the title character in Dear Evan Hansen, or Jeremy Heere in Be More Chill, or Marty McFly in Back To The Future (the film and/or the musical, take your pick). He does have Janey (Laura Baldwin) and Feris (Daniel Buckley) on his side, the latter displaying some particularly nifty footwork both in ‘Who’s That Guy’ in the first half and ‘No Pants Dance’ in the second.
The songs are, taken together, sufficiently varied in tone and pace. The choreography is sometimes too repetitive, though – I should have done a tally of how many times one of characters’ arms went up in the air with their hands made into fists steadily before the other one did the same but suddenly. Or, as they say on BBC Television’s Strictly Come Dancing, ‘too much armography, darling’. It’s a simple enough action that most of the audience in the front rows followed the cast doing it during at the end of the show, and this musical would appear to have something of a cult following even with its relatively limited exposure on this side of the Atlantic.
Mr Houchen is not entirely convincing as a socially awkward young man, though vocally he is in this recording in fine form, as ever. In Thomas’ Tough Man lies the epitome of bad acting: I hasten to add this is deliberately so for comic purposes, and much humour is derived from Tough Man not delivering lines in the way prescribed by filmmaker Lex Hogan (Alex Bourne). Tough Man’s sidekick, Super Hot Lady (Emily Tierney) is almost as bad (in a sort of Springtime For Hitler kind of way). I have to admit I found it difficult to maintain interest throughout, but this show has the kind of silliness much needed in these unusually difficult times.
Available to view at https://www.facebook.com/eugeniusthemusical/ for a limited time only.
Photo credit: Scott Rylander
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.