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Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of CRUEL INTENTIONS the Musical?

Cruel Intentions: The Musical

CRUEL INTENTIONS is an exhilarating and deceptively funny new musical that pulls you into the manipulative world of Manhattan's most dangerous liaisons: Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil.

Seduced by revenge and fueled by passion, the two diabolically charming step-siblings place a bet on whether or not Sebastian can deflower their incoming headmaster's daughter, Annette Hargrove. As the two set out to destroy the innocent girl - and anyone who gets in their way - they find themselves entangled in a web of secrets, temptation, and the cruelest game of all: love.

Staged at (le) Poisson Rouge, complete with bar and table service, audience members are thrown into '90s euphoria as the intoxicating story unfolds around them, set to the greatest throwback hits of the decade by such artists as Goo Goo Dolls, No Doubt, R.E.M., Ace of Base, Jewel, 'NSYNC and more - in addition to songs from the film's iconic soundtrack such as "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve and "Colorblind" by Counting Crows.

Set to the greatest pop and rock hits of the '90s and songs from the film's iconic soundtrack, the CRUEL INTENTIONS musical is created by Jordan Ross, Lindsey Rosin and Roger Kumble, with immersive stage direction by Lindsey Rosin, choreography byJennifer Weber (KPOP, The Hip Hop Nutcracker), and Music Supervision & Arrangements by Zach Spound.

The show stars Lauren Zakrin (The Great Comet of 1812; Rock of Ages) as Kathryn, Constantine Rousouli (Wicked, Ghost) as Sebastian, Carrie St. Louis( Rock of Ages, Wicked) as Annette, Jessie Shelton (Hadestown; 36 Questions) as Cecile, Alex Boniello (Spring Awakening) as Blaine, Brian Muller ("The Good Wife") as Greg, Matthew Griffin (The New Yorkers at Encores!) as Ronald, and four-time Emmy nominee Patricia Richardson ("Home Improvement") as Mrs. Bunny Caldwell.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Elisabeth Vincentelli, The New York Times: As it is, "Cruel Intentions" could run for a while as a semi-staged rock show, but it does feel like an exploratory tryout crying for a fuller production. After all, if "Rock of Ages" could make a mint from '80s hair metal, there is no reason "Cruel Intentions" can't do the same for '90s pop rock.

Jonathan Matthews, Time Out New York: We learn all of this via numbingly expository dialogue stuffed between Cruel Intentions' true raison d'être: its jukebox score of '90s pop hits, woven together by nostalgia maestro Zach Spound. Some of the score is satisfyingly subverted: "I Want It That Way" and "Bye Bye Bye" are merged to apply to a forbidden gay fling; "Kiss Me" creepily keeps its innocent ring as the accompaniment to Kathryn teaching Cecile how to get to first base. But most of the songs barely budge the plot, commenting on it instead with a convenient key phrase or two. While its story emphasizes the guilt of pleasure gained at the expense of others, the musical invites you to bop your head along.

Christian Lewis, Huffington Post: In a 90s nostalgia jukebox musical, harnessing the comedy is essential. Perhaps this is what made the performances of the leading pair unsuccessful. Both Rousouli and Zakrin seemed too invested in the seriousness and dramatics of their characters to understand that the musical is mostly an extended piece of sketch comedy with great (bad?) songs. The over-acting by the leads made this incarnation slightly less enjoyable than the previous ones, although this could have been caused by the absence of Jenn Damiano and/or Katie Stevens, who had both previously played Kathryn with much more success than Zakrin.

Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson

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