Comic Book Fantasy

By Richard Barber

When comic actor Warwick Davis was approached by songwriting duo Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins with a new musical and the offer to play the evil Lord Hector, it took him very little time, he says, to be won over. Davis played Hector in a charity performance at the Palladium but he’s not in the regular cast of Eugenius! now at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Other Palace. He was there, though, with his family to cheer on proceedings at the show’s gala performance.

We are in the world of 1980s comic books and our young hero, Eugene, is determined to create his own rival to Batman and Superman with Tough Man – motto: ‘I’m tough but fair!’ – through his drawings and stories. Tough Man (Shaun Dalton) was separated from his twin brother, Lord Hector, in his home world of Itsaballoon and now roams the earth dispensing his own brand of somewhat simplified justice. Eugene has two real-life friends in Janey, who’s mad about him without his realising it, of course, and the cuddly, not to say crude, Feris (Daniel Buckley, giving himself a thoroughly good time). 

In the twinkling of an eye, Eugene has won a competition to go to Hollywood and have his Tough Man franchise turned into a film by Powermax Studios led by the vulgarian Lex Logan (Cameron Blakely in megadecibel mode). Eugene’s original vision is traduced by the philistine producer. Evil Lord Hector (Ian Hughes) accompanied by his robot, Kevin (voiced by Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, no less), tries unsuccessfully to eliminate his musclebound twin. The scales fall from Eugene’s eyes as he spots for the first time that Janey is his life’s true love and all ends happily, if noisily, with the show’s rousing title song.

So, subtle it ain’t and some of the studio shenanigans become a bit wearing. But its heart is in the right place and it does have at its centre two very good, truthful performances from
the American Liam Forde as Eugene and Laura Baldwin who perfectly captures Janey’s mix of swooning spunkiness. They both sing extremely well, too.

There are enough good jokes for adults, many of them from the lips of Lex’s supercamp right-hand man, Theo
(Scott Paige). There’s also the unmistakable booming voice of an unseen Brian Blessed as the Space Lord. And there’s likeability in plentiful supply. If there are any teenagers in your family, best to take them along, too, for this is a journey into a galaxy far, far away.

Until 3 March at The Other Palace, London SW1: 020-7087 7900, www.theotherpalace.co.uk 

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