Cruel Intentions – The 90’s Musical – Melbourne Premiere

As an original and long-time fan of the 1999 cult movie (originally adapted from the 1988 film Dangerous Liaisons which itself was adapted by a 1782 French novel), I was intrigued as to how this sexy, malicious, thrilling and boundary-pushing, bad-ass 90’s film starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon and Selma Blair would adapt to the stage, let alone as a musical. As I cast my memory back to those teenage years in the late nighties (I was 16 when the film was released), I distinctly remembered loving the film’s soundtrack, including a very welcome introduction to The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony. Little did I know just how amazing a musical version would be that meshed 90’s grunge and pop together in a joyful rendition by all an all-Australian cast!

The premiere of Cruel Intentions – The 90’s Musical was a fun, colourful and good vibes kind of opening, where Melbourne’s entertainment personalities came out in force to show their support of musical theatre. And with a 90’s dress code, there was much to love as the cycle of fashion is swinging round and the end of the twentieth century styles are cool again.

The musical opened in a blitz of sound, a flurry of colour, an array of attitude and a swathe of dancers – it was clear that this was going to be fast-paced, fun, laugh out loud good and oh-so sexy. The nostalgia set in immediately, as I recounted the movie script in my head, and the first of those famous lines were spoken out loud. Exceeding all expectations, Cruel Intentions – The 90’s Musical was a smorgasbord of classic wistful-inducing, dance-floor reminiscing, road-trip remembering tracks that were so cleverly weaved into the storyline that they become an integral thread to the narrative.

Starring Kirby Burgess as Kathryn, Drew Weston as Sebastian, Kelsey Halge as Annette and Francine Cain as Cecile, the acting and singing prowess of the cast was sensational. Not only was the storyline true to the original film, the character portrayals were superb, as each actor shined in their roles. Adapting those well-known New York accents, hitting every line with perfection and backing it up with razor sharp dance moves, there was never a moment of hesitation or slip – the production was absolutely impeccable. Engaging in a way that kept you mesmerised from start to finish, the musical flawlessly deals with some non-PC, uncomfortable, outrageous and melancholic themes, however, just as with the film, you cannot bring yourself to look away.

Directed by Alister Smith, the musical boasts phenomenal choreography by Freya List which added to the spectacle, as did the colourful sets designed by James Browne and fantastic 90’s wardrobe courtesy of costume designer Isaac Lummis (the infamous crucifix necklace, short school girl skirts, knee high socks, headbands, backwards caps and baggy jeans).

With extremely memorable performances by the aforementioned lead cast, the roles undertaken by Rishab Kern as Ronald, Fem Belling as Mrs Caldwell, Joseph Spanti as Greg McConnell and Euan Fistrovic Doidge as Blaine were brilliant, with the latter two a powerhouse of comedy, sass and surprising tenderness. Special mention must go to Francine Cain, who captivated the audience with her brilliant portrayal of a naïve yet headstrong Cecile, displaying the character’s hilarious, awkward, sexy and vulnerable side in a fearless performance that will play on in audience’s minds.

The duo of Kirby Burgess as Kathryn and Drew Weston as Sebastian play off each other superbly – you feel both drawn into, repulsed by and empathetic of their actions. The seduction is laid on thick, the sexual chemistry almost reverberating across the stage, as their heady lines rebound against each other like the beat of a bass guitar.

With tracks by The Verve, *NSYNC, Mandy Moore, Counting Crows, Placebo, Jewel, Boyz II Men, No Doubt, TLC, Garbage, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Natalie Imbruglia (to name but a few), you will be amazed at just how much your 90’s brain remembers the lyrics to these songs, and you will be singing out loud and dancing in your seats from curtain rise to final bow. This musical is just so funny, naughty, super sexy and amazing – congratulations to all involved!

With a limited season in Melbourne until June 25 you don’t want to miss this sensational joy of a musical. Link below to secure your tickets – bring the gang and get ready to reminisce surrounded by good vibes, a tonne of sexiness and killer soundtrack.

All imagery by Nicole Cleary Photography courtesy of Fuller PR.

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