As the trend of reinventing cinema into musicals continues and 90s nostalgia reaches its peak, the team behind The Wedding Singer and Bring It On: The Musical come back with Cruel Intentions: The Musical of the 90s.
Based on the 1999 film starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe, cruel intentions is itself a remake of Dangerous Liaisonsthe 1988 film based on the 1985 play by Christopher Hampton, based on a 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous relationships.
So wrapped up in this musical of a movie of a movie of a play of a novel, the tale of manipulation, lust and revenge has weathered the last two centuries to arrive in its present form, the juke – music box. It’s a bit of a fall from grace for the iconic story of Katherine and Sebastian and their depraved behavior.
The musical stays true to the 1999 film and matches the original script perfectly. Unfortunately, this is his downfall. In the 23 years since cruel intentions was released the world was radically changed and the coercive sexual behavior of the main characters in their seduction and destruction of Cecile played with delicate hilarity by Francine Cain is no longer acceptable in contemporary entertainment.
Whether it’s a commentary on how far we’ve come as a society since the 90s, it reads as outdated and problematic and not even the plethora of 90s bangers in the score can save it. Although the musical is packed with the best and greatest hits of the 90s and the cast is phenomenal, the content just doesn’t stand the test of time.
Kirby Burgess like the plot Katherine does his best with the dated material and his voice is sublime, however, the constant sound problems at the Athenaeum took away some of his greatest moments where his rock style could have skyrocketed.
Kathryn’s accomplice Sebastian played by Drawn West is consistent throughout and his character arc has the biggest change that he plays with genuine sincerity. West gets fabulous numbers and manages the balance between seedy and alluring.
Yet it is Euan Fistrovic Doidge as Blaine, the character made famous by Joshua Jackson in the movie that steals the show. With hair that shines brighter than the sun, Doidge is so delightfully camped out and just impossible not to love his role which is fleshed out in the musical giving him more stage time and additional character development.
Created by Jordan Ross, Lindsey Rosin and Roger Kumble, Cruel Intentions: The Musical of the 90s is a real blockbuster production. There are dozens of 90s hits crammed into the score, but the content misses the mark for modern audiences. It has a very similar structure to The Wedding Singerhowever, 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 actors do their best and sing with the kind of enthusiasm one expects from a musical theater performer, but the set is underutilized as a whole and there are missed opportunities for large numbers. Although some of the music is there to propel the story forward, the use of No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” to by Annette Hargrove entrance (played by Kelsey Halge) completely misses the target and the essence of the character.
If you’re looking for a night of your favorite 90s tunes and a nostalgic trip down memory lane, Cruel Intentions: The Musical of the 90s is for you. However, if you’re hoping for something as iconic as the 1999 film, may I suggest you stick around and watch it on your favorite streaming platform instead.
David Venn Productions presents
Cruel Intentions: The Musical of the 90s
book Roger Kumble, Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross
Director Alister Smith
Venue: Athenaeum Theater | 188 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC
Appointment: 05/26/2022 – 06/25/2022
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