As the trend of reimagining film into musicals continues and 90s nostalgia reaches its peak, the team behind The Wedding Singer and Bring it On: The Musical return with Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical.
Based on the 1999 film starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe, Cruel Intentions itself is a remake of Dangerous Liaisons, the 1988 film based on the 1985 play by Christopher Hampton, based on a 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons dangereuses.
So wrapped within this musical of a movie of a film of a play of a novel, the tale of manipulation, lust, and revenge has withstood the last two centuries to arrive in its current form, the jukebox musical. It’s somewhat of a fall from grace for the iconic story of Kathryn and Sebastian and their depraved behaviour.
The musical stays true to the 1999 film and is word perfect to the original script. Unfortunately, this is its downfall. In the 23 years since Cruel Intentions was released the world has changed dramatically and the coercive sexual behaviour of the main characters in their seduction and destruction of Cecile played with a delicate hilarity by Francine Cain is no longer palatable in contemporary entertainment.
Whether this is a comment on how far we have come as a society since the 90s, it reads as stale and problematic and not even the plethora of 90s bangers in the score can save it. While the musical is jam packed with the finest and most fabulous 90s hits and the cast are phenomenal, the content simply does not stand the test of time.
Kirby Burgess as the scheming Kathryn does her best with the dated material and her vocals are sublime, however, the consistent sound issues at the Athenaeum took away from some of her bigger moments where her rock style could have soared.
Kathryn’s partner-in-crime Sebastian played by Drew West is consistent throughout and his character arc has the biggest shift which he plays with genuine sincerity. West gets some fabulous numbers and manages the balance between seedy and seductive.
Yet it is Euan Fistrovic Doidge as Blaine, the character made famous by Joshua Jackson in the film that steals the show. With hair that shines brighter than sun, Doidge is so delightfully camp and simply impossible not to love in his role that is fleshed out in the musical giving him more stage time and further character development.
Created by Jordan Ross, Lindsey Rosin and Roger Kumble, Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical is a real hit and miss production. There are dozens of 90s hits crammed into the score, yet the content misses the mark for the modern day audience. It has a very similar structure to The Wedding Singer, yet, where The Wedding Singer is bright and loud, camp and fun, Cruel Intentions is dark, dramatic, and not the right content for a musical full of upbeat pop songs. The cast do their absolute best and sing their faces off with the kind of enthusiasm one expects from a musical theatre performer, but the ensemble is underused as whole and there are some missed opportunities for big numbers. While some of the music is there to propel the story the use of No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” for Annette Hargrove’s entrance (played by Kelsey Halge) misses the mark and the essence of the character completely.
If you’re after a night of your fave 90s tunes and a nostalgic trip down memory lane, Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical is for you. However, if you’re hoping for something as iconic as the 1999 the film, may I suggest you stay in and watch it on your favourite streaming platform instead.
David Venn Productions presents
Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical
book Roger Kumble, Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross
Director Alister Smith
Venue: Athenaeum Theatre | 188 Collins St, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 26/05/2022 – 25/06/2022