Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical

With millennial nostalgia at its peak, there can be no better time to head to the Edinburgh Fringe and experience Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical. With a soundtrack to die for⁠—no pun intended—and the *NSYNC dance moves we didn’t realise we still knew off by heart, this musical is the perfect homage to a cult classic.

This musical is the perfect homage to a cult classic.

Cruel Intentions is about two twisted step-siblings who get a kick out of messing with other people’s lives. When Kathryn bets Sebastian that he can’t get the resident good girl into bed, he accepts the challenge—never suspecting that making love might lead to falling in love. Despite the popularity of the original, watching the musical version will make you wonder how the movie characters got through each scene without breaking into song.

Giving off strong Spring Awakening vibes, each character uses statement ‘90s tunes to convey their angst, including a school-based ensemble opening number. With abrupt song introductions, including The Sign being used to describe orgasm, and some slow-motion running by Blaine and Greg in Sometimes, the music becomes the running joke of the show. Some of these well-established tunes take on new meanings—for example, singing No Scrubs might make you feel racist from now on.

This is probably the most attractive and muscular cast in the Fringe, if not the world. Seriously—where did they find these people? They’re like a new race of superhumans. They can sing, they can dance, and they look very similar to their movie counterpoints. In fact, the Director, Jonathan O’Boyle, seems to have placed so much emphasis on having each character be a copy of their namesake that we lose out on any new interpretations of the roles. At times, it feels like the actors are so focused on being, not just ‘Sebastian’ but Ryan Phillippe’s version of Sebastian, that their performances can feel slightly robotic. Going through the moves that someone else put in motion, albeit with singing, instead of putting their own spin on the original script.

The vocals are powerful, sometimes working better with the punchier, anthem-style hits rather than the softer, sentimental pieces. Rebecca Gilhooley’s I’m a Bitch is gritty, defiant and utterly satisfying in every sense of the word. Despite a lack of chemistry making it hard to root for Sebastian and Annette, Sophie Isaacs’ Foolish Games is an emotional, unforgettable performance. Evelyn Hoskins managed to be both sexy and comical in her rendition of I’ll Make Love to You, while the final ensemble version of Bittersweet Symphony, which had been hinted at in the overture, was the perfect bittersweet ending to the show.

Fans of the movie will get exactly what they paid for with this raunchy, quotable, hit-filled remake. Fans of musicals might feel there is a little something lacking. Either way, it’s 75 minutes of beautiful people singing the most iconic songs of our childhood—and the cast learned all the moves to Bye, Bye, Bye just for you. That alone deserves a standing ovation.

Reviews by Kate Nora

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Performances

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The Blurb

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. The cult movie you love laced with '90s classics including Britney, Christina, *NSYNC and REM, all performed live. 'Fun, sexy, seductive. It's a great time!' (Huffington Post). 'Funny... nostalgia-fuelled. The choice lines and inspired soundtrack hits are all there... the best of the '90s!' (New York Times).

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