All things the 90s takes centre stage at the State Theatre in Sydney as classic flick Cruel Intentions gets the musical treatment. Fusing the music of the 1990s with the upper east side Manhattan drama based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Kathryn (Kirby Burgess) and step-brother Sebastian (Drew Weston) play power games with the lives of everyone in their orbit, to tragic consequences.
Burgess is strong as Kathryn, with the right level of intrigue and bite to lead the show. Her voice is able to break through the noise (more on that later) and her dancing is also first-rate. The show also sees the birth of a star in Weston, whose ability to play off his looks, charm and voice takes Sebastian to equal heights to the original. Further commendations go to Francine Caine and Euan Fistrovic Doidge, whose supporting roles are played to perfection, each being likeable enough to root for and sing along with, and embodying their characters perfectly.
The jukebox musical was created in 2015 and has successfully embraced the campness of the original film and the songs it encompasses, now more expansive than those from the original soundtrack, to some of the biggest hits of the 90s. This production does well with its relatively simple set design that moves locations as the story requires, including furniture that spins and shifts. For some, the repetitious nature of scene blocking may seem distracting, but the performers all do well to entertain as to distract from it.
Sebastian’s journal is the centre of the storytelling and his words are projected across the backdrop of the scenes, though at times with moving set pieces, can be too much to take in. The lighting evokes that of a rock concert and the costume design combines the original movie source style with a punk twist. The sound needs work, with the background music too loud at times and overpowering the performers during some challenging parts, though they overcome.
As a cult favourite, Cruel Intentions has key scenes and dialogue that convert to the stage and set tongues wagging at times. Combined with some alcohol, it didn’t take much for the audience to laugh out loud and sing along with some of the big songs of the show. All in all, this revival of the classic reminds us of why the original pushed the envelope and continues to thrill, a nostalgic fuelled night of melodrama and 90s music for the perfect night out.