Review | Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical, Assembly George Square Gardens ⋆⋆⋆⋆

“Can I take my new car for a ride?”

“Kathryn, the only thing you’ll be riding is me”

In the summer lull before school starts, what else is there for the wealthy teens in Manhattan to do but engage in sexual debauchery and manipulate others?

In this musical adaptation of the 90s film with the same name, Sebastian Valmont (Dominic Anderson) and Kathryn Merteuil (Rebecca Gilhooley) have made a bet. Can Sebastian seduce Annette (Sophie Isaacs), the incoming Headmaster’s daughter who has taken a plea of celibacy? If Kathryn wins, she’ll have Sebastian’s car. But if Sebastian wins, he’ll get what he’s long lusted after; the chance to sleep with Kathryn, his step-sister.

This musical, directed by Jonathan O’Boyle, is dripping in promiscuity and taboo; there’s incest, drugs, sex with a minor and rape. It comes as no surprise to learn that the film is a teen re-make of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the French novel all about rivalry, betrayal and the power of seduction.

Each cast member looks as if they have come straight out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue. Dominic Andersen is convincing in his portrayal of the sex-obsessed and emotionally-stunted Sebastian, whether his character is engaging with a minor, seducing his prized virgin or flirting with his step sister. Rebecca Gilhooley is also convincingly dark and twisted as Kathryn as she schemes to ruin the lives of those around her.

Cruel Intentions is a cult favourite among a long list of 90s teen angst films such as American Pie and Clueless. So what better soundtrack for this show than the one of my childhood, 90s pop music. It’s surprising how many songs make sense within the context of this musical. It’s as if the original creators of these tunes sought to capture the mixed feelings of a generation in their songs with the knowledge that it would one day belong in this show.

In one subplot, Greg McConnell (Dean John-Wilson), the closeted jock, is in a secret homosexual love affair and sings a touching rendition of Britney Spears’ ‘Sometimes’. “All I really want is to hold you tight, treat you right, be with you day and night, baby all I need is time”. Not only does it fit, but it creates a wave of nostalgia that is likely to draw you in.

There are many similar moments such as this with songs including ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ by Boyz II Men, ‘Bye, Bye, Bye’ by *NSYNC and The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’. The songs are beautifully arranged and the numbers are performed with tight choreography. However it does feel at times that the show relies too heavily on the lyrics of these songs for character development and it could do with including fewer songs altogether.

Cruel Intentions is a fitting title indeed. The musical paints a picture of the young and wealthy elite in New York as devoid of all moral bearings and with little to do to pass the time. Audiences should expect a slick production, an unstoppable wave of 90s-nostalgia and eye candy galore.

Creul Intentions: The 90s Musical is running at the Assembly George Square Gardens on Aug 11-12, 14-25 at the time of writing.

 

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