Cruel Intentions: The 90’s Musical: Assembly George Square Gardens, Palais du Variete, Edinburgh
Reviewed 22nd August 2019
Based upon the cult 90’s hit film Cruel Intentions ‘enter the manipulative world of Manhattan’s most dangerous liaisons: Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil. Seduced by revenge and fuelled by passion, the step-siblings bet on destroying an innocent girl. As they weave a web of secrets and temptation, they become entangled in the cruellest game of all: love.’ Featuring a soundtrack full of 90’s hit classics including songs by Britney, Christina, *NSYNC and REM this production really is a homage to the 1990’s era. Since its original offering in 2015 and subsequent off-Broadway debut in 2017 the show has attracted a lot of attention and this is its much anticipated premiere in the UK. Hoping to take the show to London, Bill Kenwright Ltd has enlisted a cast of well-known West End stars including Sophie Isaacs, Scott Hunter, Dean John-Wilson, Evelyn Hoskins and is directed by Jonathon O’Boyle who has had many successes over the last few years including Hair 50th Anniversary, The View Upstairs, Pippin and Aspects of Love.
Full of sex and backstabbing this musical is certainly full of revenge and passion. The tension between the characters onstage is evident from the opening. Although the use of well-known hits will no doubt attract more audience members, at times they feel shoe-horned in rather than a natural progression of the story. In fact, some song choices result in sniggers and giggles from the audience which is the complete opposite of the intent of the scene. This musical would certainly benefit from an original score.
The main problem is that, however well the characters are played, they are not likeable and as a result the audience feels little empathy for them. The show itself is great for fans of the film but it misses large parts of the plot and as a result newcomers to the storyline may end up feeling slightly confused.
The Fringe venue, Palais de Variete, and the round style works well for the production and the various entry points for the actors keeps the audience on their toes. It will be interesting to see how this transfers to other venues and staging. Perhaps having a traditional staging may allow the audience to connect better with the characters and story.
Unfortunately, Cruel Intentions feels a little underwhelming. The talent displayed onstage is great and each member of the cast fully commit to their character. Vocals are excellent and some of the changes to the 90’s hits work well but the plot feels rushed, the songs are crammed in and the characters are hard to relate to. Cruel Intentions has been a hit in America and no doubt will gain a lot of attention in the UK too but, for me, there were definitely better shows on offer at this years Fringe.