CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90’S MUSICAL brings the cult film to life for the stage with a celebration of 90’s music
Friday, July 1, 2022, 8 p.m., State Theater Sydney
The dark and depraved 1999 teen cult classic gets the musical theater treatment in CRUEL INTENTIONS THE 90’S MUSICAL. As much a celebration of 90s music as it is a nostalgic revisit to Roger Kumble’s (director and screenplay) film adaptation of Pierre Cholderlos de Laclos’ 18th century novel Dangerous relationships, this jukebox musical that premiered in 2015 is part concert part retelling. Kumble is joined by Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross to create the musical adaptation book which revisits some of the iconic songs from the soundtrack while incorporating a wider range of music from the era for the enjoyment of audiences .
The story of Manhattan’s debauched and manipulative step-brothers and step-brothers who demand revenge and count conquests is set in the grand homes of wealthy New York families during the summer vacation before the start of a new school year. . The Australian production sees a relatively simple set design of six towering mobile stage apartments, adorned with molded panels and paneling to replicate the aesthetic of the Valmont/Merteuil mansion depicted in Kumble’s original film. The scenographer James Browne associates these panels, altered by projections, with a large chesterfield sofa in black velvet and two armchairs to shift the scene. Handwritten text animations of lyrics and monologues connect the action to Sebastian Valmont’s (Drew Weston) diary while video projections depict moving scenes. While static projections have typically mapped around white moldings, video projections don’t work as well on contrasting elements and staggered placement of dishes leading to some unintelligible backgrounds. The limitations of variation in sets with the continual repurposing of the couch also limits the expression of what happens where, with the scenes in the Valmont/Merteuil residence all seeming to take place in a living room regardless of the nature of the scene. Declan O’Neill’s lighting design infuses a rock concert element with spotlights blowing off the back of the stage and LED lighting from the panel moldings. Isaac Lummis’ costume design is heavily influenced by the film’s source material, although some elements have been adapted to allow the same outfit to be appropriate across a series of scenes rather than reinforce the passage of time through costume changes.
The use of 1990s pop songs rather than showing specific new songs seems to have influenced the sound design of Greg Ginger who forgets that the work is primarily musical theater narration and therefore the lyrics of the songs selected should be able to help drive the narrative. The band’s mix, under the musical direction of Daniel Puckey, is such that the instrumentals were set too high, forcing the vocalists to sing too much or simply crank up the vocal microphones to the point of distortion, or as was so often the case 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 the top notes as they persisted in trying to fight off the group.
The musical treatment is a relatively faithful replica of the film with key dialogue and iconic scenes recreated on stage, including Sebastian’s pool reveal and the girl-on-girl kiss that landed Sarah Michelle Geller (Kathryn) and Selma Blair (Cécile ) an MTV Movie Award is brilliantly recreated by Kirby Burgess and Francine Caine as Cecile. Some moving between slots might have been a bit perplexing for those less familiar with the source work or those a little rusty on the memory front. While the placebo Every you every me cardigans madly in love and the verves bittersweet symphony remains of the film’s soundtrack, much of the score is taken from other works of the time, for the amusement and enjoyment of audiences who often let out laughs of recognition when often corny associations were made. made with the dramatic feeling and lyrics of the chosen songs.
Standout performances come from Kirby Burgess as Kathryn Merteuil, Francine Cain as Cecile Caldwell, and Euan Fistrovic Doidge. Burgess captures the delightfully twisted mind of the Manchester Prep School model student with flashes of facial expressions and perfectly executed choreography that exudes power and sexuality. Naive Cécile’s Cain expression is filled with brilliant physical comedy with a boundless expression of eager-to-please girlish ridiculousness. Doidge’s turn as Blaine’s supporting character overtly is beautifully camped out while ensuring that he remains a likable character compared to Sebastian and Kathryn.
Basing the musical on a 23-year-old work reveals shifts in social sensibilities, though it’s not impossible to believe that the idle minds of upper-class elite teenagers probably haven’t changed all that much. their behaviors. Just as the work that inspired the film was published in the 18th century, providing a commentary on the behaviors of the aristocracy titled, no matter how acceptable behaviors change, there will always be despicable and depraved spirits like Kathryn and Sebastian’s so for the general masses, it’s a chance to reconnect with a cult classic and hope we never find ourselves drawn into the dangerous games of revenge and boredom.
Pictures: Nicole Cleary