BWW Album Review: CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE '90S MUSICAL (Original Cast Album) Rests On Nostalgia
Released on March 8, 2019, the 20th anniversary of Cruel Intentions, ABKCO's CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE '90S MUSICAL (Original Cast Album) is undoubtedly Kidz Bop for adults. And there's nothing wrong with that (in this case). The album features "Every You, Every Me," "Colorblind," and "Bittersweet Symphony" from the original motion picture soundtrack, and the remaining 15 tracks are comprised of instantly recognizable standards of the era. A handful of which appear on the soundtracks of Cruel Intentions' contemporaries.
Late in 2017, I took in a random performance of the musical at New York City's Le Poisson Rouge (LPR). Tickled by the production, I found myself entertained by the music cues' ability to remind me of my own days in junior high and high school. However, I was dismayed the lapses in tone - sometimes the show was a parody of the original film, and other times the show took itself extremely seriously. Then there were the wildly inconsistent vocal performances, ranging from bona fide showstopper to unlistenable travesty.
Enter CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE '90S MUSICAL (Original Cast Album), which perfectly displays what the show should have sounded like in live performance. Recorded roughly eight months after I saw the show live (and about four months after the show closed at LPR), each of the ditties benefits mightily from the studio treatment and is free of the strain of performing eight times a week. From the slowed, plaintive opening notes of "Bittersweet Symphony" that blend into the driving rock of "Every Me, Every You," the album steps off on the right foot. The youthful exuberance and angst captured in the combined voices on the tortured, indie rock anthem (that also opens the film) creates the perfect ambience for this nostalgic, sex-fueled romp through the '90s.
Each of the songs delights in their own ways, with most bringing smiles to the face as toes tap and your head bops. Then, capitalizing on collective memories of the decade, the album includes Patricia Richardson (whom you'll remember as the mom from TV's Home Improvement) serving up tender love and care for her incredibly privileged and equally sheltered daughter Cecile as Richardson's Mrs. Caldwell bitterly tells off Cecile's cello instructor with "No Scrubs."
Truthfully, the only thing that keeps CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE '90S MUSICAL (Original Cast Album) from just being a cover album is the incorporation of standout quotes from the film that weaseled their way into the book for the musical and climatic medleys of these newly canonized pop 'classics,' if you will. Sure, it's silly to hear Lauren Zakrin deliver the quintessential "Marsha f***king Brady" line immortalized by Sarah Michelle Gellar ahead of launching into "Only Happy When It Rains" before the track itself devolves into a medley of "Lovefool," "Bye, Bye, Bye," "Sex and Candy," "Breakfast at Tiffany's," and "No Scrubs." But, it's just so devilishly entertaining that it's impossible not to love it.
A shimmering pastiche of nostalgia and sprinkle of camp fuels ABKCO's CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE '90S MUSICAL (Original Cast Album), making it a good time. However, it's totally donuts for dinner, so don't expect satisfying artful nourishment. Just savor the sugary candy coating and don't waste too much thought or time on the hollow center.