EdFringe 2019 Review: Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical

Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical
Rating: ★★★★
Venue: George Square Gardens


1999 cult classic film Cruel Intentions receives a musical rebirth thanks to Jordan Ross, Lindsey Rosin and Roger Kumble’s new adaption. Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle and choreographed by Gary Lloyd this is a slick and sexy piece of musical theatre, laced with well-pitched comedy, a delightfully nostalgic soundtrack and impressive performances.

Based on Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel Les Liasons dangereuses, the classic film brought together nineties heartthrobs Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Reese Witherspoon. The narrative of this musical update stays close to that of the film: privileged womaniser Sebastian Valmont (Dominic Andersen) and Kathryn Merteuil (Rebecca Gilhooley), two Manhattan step-siblings begin a wager that Sebastian can’t bed the new Headmaster’s virginal daughter. What follows is a titillating game of manipulation and heated romantic entanglement.

In its Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut, the musical is staged in Assembly George Square’s Palais du Variete – the perfect venue to give this adaptation an almost immersive feel as performers walk behind the audience in the circular venue. The staging is impressive, making the most of the space available to create a transporting and engaging production. A live band sit at the back of the stage providing slick renditions of the many nineties musical classics that populate the show.

Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical is edgy and provocative in its subject matter and truly emphasises the sexy feel of the 1999 film. Andersen’s performance as the calculating Valmont channels this, yet adds a further sense of depth and character transition to Sebastian as the narrative progresses. Gilhooley’s engaging turn as Kathryn is enjoyable as it emphasises the character’s dark, manipulative nature. The acerbic wordplay between Sebastian and Kathyrn is elegantly delivered by Andersen and Gilhooley – both actors bringing a sharp waspish humour to the fold.

Tongue is planted firmly in cheek during Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical, with a well-pitched sense of humour and impressive musical choices furthering this. Giving these nineties pop classics a theatrical reimagining helps propel the narrative, bring a playful sense of humour and engage the audience. Interpretations of TLC’s No Scrubs, Natalie Imbruglia’s version of Torn, No Doubt’s Just a Girl, The Cardigan’s Lovefool, Meredith Brooks’ Bitch, Sixpence None the Richer’s Kiss Me and The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony help assert Cruel Intentions as a jukebox musical with wit and depth.

Supporting turns from Evelyn Hoskins, Sophie Isaacs, Scott Hunter, Dean John-Wilson, Ashley Samuels and Gemma Slater help Cruel Intentions run slickly with impressive musical performances, a game sense of humour and skilled dramatic conviction.

Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical packs acerbic wit, a much-loved nineties soundtrack, and slick and sexy dramatic conviction to produce an outstanding musical theatre experience.

Photo: TheOtherRichard

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