‘Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical’ was electrifying.
If you’re looking for a truly unforgettable theatrical experience, ‘Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical’ is not to be missed.
Back for a second run of its national tour, David Venn Productions has brought the seductive show to Gold Coast’s Home of The Arts. Fans of the original movie, and those discovering it for the first time, will find themselves captivated by the exceptional cast, masterful choreography, and breathtaking set design that bring the popular 90s hit to life.
Delivered like a live rock concert, every aspect of the show is designed to captivate and entertain. For those unfamiliar with the cult-classic film, ‘Cruel Intentions’ (1999) is a modern adaptation of an infamous 18th-century French novel, ‘Les Liaisons dangereuses’. Set in New York City, the story revolves around a devious step-duo, Kathryn (Kirby Burgess) and Sebastian (Drew Weston), and their victims of seduction during summer break. Central to the plot is the challenge Kathryn gives to Sebastian. She bets that he will not succeed in his goal of deflowering the new headmaster’s daughter, Annette (Kelsey Halge), wagering herself as a forbidden fruit in exchange for Sebastian’s 1956 Jaguar Roadster. The lines between love and manipulation become blurred as the characters navigate complex feelings and twisted relationships.
‘Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical’ is a spunky and fun retelling of the film, interspersed with iconic ’90s hits and raunchy dance numbers. It mostly stays true to the plot of the film, with themes of love, manipulation, and redemption. However, the musical playfully gives more depth to the relationship subplots and fleshes out the side characters.
Kirby Burgess tantalises as the antagonising tease, Kathryn Merteuil. Kathryn is a fiercely competitive and sexually charged character, and Burgess played the role well. With every entrance and exit, the performer takes the stage with the fiery confidence of a scorned seductress. With fantastic vibrato and plenty of bite, Burgess’ performance was phenomenal. Particularly, later in the story, when Kathryn is losing control. The character becomes increasingly desperate and dangerous. At the pinnacle of this turn is a fiery musical mashup expressing the character’s mental breakdown. Burgess delivered this medley with such tremendous power and control, that at the climax of the number, Burgess had the audience holding onto every note with bated breath. Kathryn is a difficult role to play – having to strut that divide between villain and seductress, yet still garner sympathies from the audience – but Burgess certainly makes it look easy.
Playing the charismatic heartbreaker Sebastian Valmont, Drew Weston is a charming and powerful presence on stage. Although initially driven by a desire to bolster their reputation and win their prize, everything falls apart when Sebastian develops feelings for Annette. As the character evolves into a more genuine version of themself, so too does Weston’s performance as they smoothly transition from devious playboy into a remorseful young man. That being said, the performer’s strikingly strong jawline and chiselled chest certainly stretched the suspension of disbelief whenever they referenced anything about being a teen. Nevertheless, a standout highlight of the show was Weston’s passionate rendition of ‘Iris’ by the Goo Goo Dolls. Their rich voice reverberated through the hall, with a timbre that made it very difficult to resist crooning along. The performer’s acting and singing prowess was certainly a testament to the 13 years of industry experience under their belt.
Sarah Krndija as Cecile Caldwell was a highlight of the show, with their singing, dancing and acting abilities all coming together to create an incredibly fun and entertaining performance. They managed to convey the character’s innocence and naivety, while also infusing it with a sense of sexiness and allure, all without edging over into creepy territory. Krndija’s ability to sing and dance with such a confidently goofy attitude was a hilarious standout aspect of the show and added to the character’s charm. Being able to seamlessly incorporate the attitude and defiance of Cecile into their performance was a true demonstration of their skill and talent. Krndija brought a unique energy and playfulness to the role that was captivating to watch.
Kelsey Halge delivered an excellent performance as the angelic Annette Hargrove. They skillfully balanced the character’s innocence and purity with a lively, playful performance. Halge’s chemistry with Valmont on stage was electric and playful, giving their romance depth and authenticity, and evoking empathy for Annette’s struggle with her own desires. During their scenes, Halge tactfully projected the character’s strict moral code and reserved nature whilst exuding a confident allure that was both believable and entertaining. Their chemistry made Halge’s rendition of ‘Foolish Games’ by Jewel all the more heartbreaking. The emotion and vulnerability they brought to the song was truly touching and moved the audience. Halge was a pleasure to watch on stage, with her ending scene of covert triumph leaving audiences satisfied and delighted.
Director, Alister Smith, masterfully brought the iconic movie to life through a spicy blend of nostalgia and modern flair. The director’s attention to detail was evident in every scene. From the set design to the costume choices, every aspect of the production was carefully curated to transport the audience back to a sexier version of the ’90s. Smith’s ability to manage such a large cast was also impressive, bringing out the best in each performer and making the most of their talents. The cohesiveness of the cast and ensemble, who all seemed to be having fun while performing, made it feel like a true team effort. This was especially notable during the seamless scene changes and transitions into dance numbers, ensuring the pacing of the show never dragged or felt rushed. The Australian iteration of ‘Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical’ was a fantastic production, and Smith’s contribution to its success cannot be understated.
Freya List’s choreography was a fantastic blend of technical skill and artistic creativity. Every dance number was clearly well thought out with a high level of care and precision, rehearsed to perfection. From the high-energy rock songs to the iconic dance numbers, and the gentler emotional songs, each dance sequence was captivating and helped bring the characters to life. List’s creativity and attention to detail were evident in every dance routine, making for an unforgettable production.
Thoroughly entertaining from start to finish, whether you’re a fan of the ’90s or simply enjoy great theatre, this musical is a must-see. With a cast of phenomenal performers, stunning set design, and unforgettable choreography, ‘Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical’ was an absolute blast.
Whether you were able to catch the show during its first run or it’s second, David Venn Productions has delivered a raunchy night of pure, unadulterated entertainment.
‘Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical’ continues its tour at Gold Coast’s Home of The Arts, before heading to Sydney’s Riverside Theatres, and Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne. For more information, visit the official ‘Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical’ website.