By Aline Mahrud
WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHEN?: Sunday 2 April (matinee), runs through 28 May 2023 RUNTIME: 160 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)
Time travel back to October 2018 and this superhero musical was on the verge of a West End transfer which never materialised when a backer withdrew.
- Read on for reasons including how this focused revival could propel this superhero musical into the West End finally
Shrinking this revival from the Other Palace stage to the Turbine Theatre for its revival more than 4 years later proves it is not reliant on spectacle for its success but actually boasts a fannypack-full of killer, 80s-inspired tunes co-written by former A1 and Subwoolfer star Ben Adams.
It also won our Best New Musical monsta in 2018 for its Other Palace production and on our return years later we can report it’s still a sci-fi high with a complicated but engaging plot.
You join us in the late 80s as geek Eugene (a believable Elliott Evans) completely misreads the affection of Fraggle Rock T-shirt-wearing friend Janey, the extremely strong-voiced Jaina Brock-Patel.
Eugene’s wingman is the cringe-inducing Feris who is given life by James Hameed (Be More Chill, Shaftesbury Theatre) whose song Who’s That Guy? is 1 of this show’s unexpected comedy highlights.
Eugene is a cartoonist who has created a back story for 1 of his superhero creations – Tough Man – who was separated at birth from his twin Evil Lord Hector performed here by a scenery-chewing Joseph Beach unafraid to come out from the stage into the audience to mix it up during his own theme song Evil.
In a strange twist, camp producer Theo (the magnificent Rhys Taylor) speaks at Eugene’s school, discovers his genius and puts him in touch with the unscrupulous Lex Hogan, here given a sex change from the original and played in supreme dastardly form by Laura Denning.
She encourages Eugene to compromise his vision and Tough Man is cast, here played by Dom Andersen who takes on multiple roles, as well as Maddison Firth’s Super Hot Lady whose audition features 1 of the best songs – the very Maniac from Footloose, She’s Amazing – which includes co-writer Adams as part of imaginary band A Flock Of Eagles on screens which are used very inventively throughout this production.
Ultimately the show is about digging deep and finding the superhero inside yourself and there are so many uplifting tunes which reflect this and even a ‘Go Eugenius!’ dance move which is fun.
On our visit it was clear the show still has plenty of loyal fans making repeat visits and this is why we hope this focused revival propels it back to the West End because it really distils its joy down to its core, making it clearer why its deserving of greater success.