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REVIEW: CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90'S MUSICAL Revives The Cult Movie For The Stage With A Celebration Of 90's Music

CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90’S MUSICAL

REVIEW: CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90'S MUSICAL Revives The Cult Movie For The Stage With A Celebration Of 90's Music

 

Friday 1st July 2022, 8pm, State Theatre Sydney

The dark and depraved 1999 teen cult classic is given the musical theatre treatment in CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90'S MUSICAL. As much a celebration of 90's music as a nostalgic revisiting of Roger Kumble's (Director and screenplay) movie adaptation of Pierre Cholderlos de Laclos' 18th century novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, this jukebox musical which premiered in 2015 is part concert part storytelling. Kumble is joined by Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross to create the book for the musical adaption which revisits a few of the iconic songs from the original soundtrack while incorporating a wider range of music from the era to the delight of the audience.

REVIEW: CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90'S MUSICAL Revives The Cult Movie For The Stage With A Celebration Of 90's Music The story of the debauched manipulative Manhattan step-siblings exacting revenge and counting off conquests plays out in grand homes of wealthy New York families over the summer holidays before the start of a new school year. The Australian production sees a relatively simple set design of six towering mobile stage flats, adorned with molded paneling and wainscoting to replicate the aesthetic of the Valmont/Merteuil mansion depicted in Kumble's original movie. Scenic designer James Browne pairs these panels, altered by projections, with a large black velvet chesterfield sofa and two armchairs to shift the locations. Animations of handwritten text of lyrics and monologues link the action to Sebastian Valmont's (Drew Weston) journal while video projections represent moving scenes. While static projections have generally been mapped around the white moldings, video projections do not work as well on the contrasting features and the staggered positioning of the flats leading to some backgrounds that are unintelligible. The limitations on set variation with the continual repurposing of the sofa also limits the expression of what is going on where, with the scenes within the Valmont/Merteuil residence all appearing to occur in a living room regardless of the nature of the scene. Declan O'Neill's lighting design infuses a rock concert element with spotlights blasting from the rear of the stage and LED illumination of the panel moldings. Isaac Lummis' costume design is heavily influenced by the movie source material though some elements have been adapted to enable the same outfit to be appropriate across a series of scenes rather than reinforcing the passage of time through costume changes.

REVIEW: CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90'S MUSICAL Revives The Cult Movie For The Stage With A Celebration Of 90's Music The use of pop songs from the 1990's rather than show specific new songs appears to have influenced Greg Ginger's sound design which forgets that the work is first and foremost a musical theatre storytelling and therefore the lyrics of the songs selected should be able to help drive the narrative. The mix of the band, under Daniel Puckey's musical direction, is such that the instrumentals have been set too high, forcing the singers to often over sing or simply have the mix lift the vocal microphones to the point of distortion, or as was also often the case, simply not be heard. Some performers, like Kirby Burgess as Kathryn Merteuil, were able to adjust their performance to suit the conditions but others strained top notes as they persisted in trying to battle the band.

 

REVIEW: CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90'S MUSICAL Revives The Cult Movie For The Stage With A Celebration Of 90's Music The musical treatment is a relatively faithful replication of the movie with key dialogue and iconic scenes being recreated on stage including the Sebastian's swimming pool reveal and the girl-on-girl kiss that won Sarah Michelle Geller (Kathryn) and Selma Blair (Cecile) an MTV Movie Award is recreated brilliantly by Kirby Burgess and Francine Caine as Cecile. Some moves between locations may have been a little perplexing to those less familiar with the source work or those that are a little rusty on the memory front. While Placebo's Every You Every Me, The Cardigans Lovefool and The Verve's Bitter Sweet Symphony remain from the original movie soundtrack, much of the score is drawn from other works of the era, to the amusement and delight of the audience who often let out laughs of recognition when often corny associations were made with the dramatic sentiment and the lyrics of the chosen songs.

 

REVIEW: CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90'S MUSICAL Revives The Cult Movie For The Stage With A Celebration Of 90's Music Stand out performances come from Kirby Burgess as Kathryn Merteuil, Francine Cain as Cecile Caldwell and Euan Fistrovic Doidge. Burgess captures the deliciously twisted mind of Manchester Prep School's model student with flashes of facial expressions and perfectly executed choreography that exudes power and sexuality. Cain's expression of the naive Cecile is filled with brilliant physical comedy with a no-holds-barred expression of the ridiculousness of the eager to please girl. Doidge's turn as the supporting character of the openly out Blaine is beautifully camp while ensuring he remains a likable character compared to Sebastian and Kathryn.

 

REVIEW: CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90'S MUSICAL Revives The Cult Movie For The Stage With A Celebration Of 90's Music Basing the musical on a work that is 23 years old does expose changes in social sensibilities though its not impossible to believe that the idle minds of the elite upper-class teens probably haven't altered their behaviors all that much. Just as the work that inspired the movie was published in the 18th century, providing a commentary on the behaviors of the titled aristocracy, regardless of how acceptable behaviors shift, there will always be despicable and depraved minds like that of Kathryn and Sebastian so for the general masses, this is a chance to reconnect with a cult classic and hope that we never find ourselves drawn into the dangerous games of the vengeful and bored.

 

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Photos: Nicole Cleary

REVIEW: CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90'S MUSICAL Revives The Cult Movie For The Stage With A Celebration Of 90's Music

 

 




From This Author - Jade Kops

Jade is an Aviation Safety Training Instructor with a love of Theatre, Cabaret, Musical Theatre, and music and is a committed advocate for the live performing arts industry in Sydney and Australia.... (read more about this author)


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