SO CRUEL IT’S PERFECT!
If you were a teen in the ‘90s, you’d remember the darkly delicious cult classic film Cruel Intentions. Lucky for us, the film that pushed all sorts of boundaries has been made into a musical.
There was much anticipation in the lead up to the opening night of Cruel Intentions: the '90s Musical at the Gold Coast’s HOTA. Would the stage production presented by David Venn Enterprises be as witty, darkly funny, and perversely shocking as the film with which we all grew up and knew well? It’s safe to say the musical is so much more than what you could expect; it is a Gen X’s dream!
Watching Cruel Intentions: the '90s Musical is like reliving all your favourite moments of being a teen in the ‘90s. And even if it wasn’t your coming-of-age era, you are guaranteed to love the musical for the story line (with a twist), the unbelievable talent, and the overall production, which is directed by Alister Smith.
Generally, in any musical theatre there is always one or two stand out performers. However, the Australian tour of Cruel Intentions: the '90s Musical is so expertly cast, every single role—from the leads to the swings to the chorus and orchestra—are amazing. In fact, the entire ensemble is probably the best we’ve seen in Queensland!
The roles allow the performers to let out their hair and bring huge amounts of personality to their characters. Kathryn is played by Kirby Burgess (Sarah Michelle Gellar in the film version) who oozes vixen sexuality in the femme fatale role. Burgess’ powerhouse voice had us all in awe, especially in her solo song montage where she made us feel her emotional torment. Perfectly cast as Kathryn’s Casanova stepbrother, Drew Weston plays the role of Sebastian, which was made famous by Ryan Phillippe. Weston has an effortless voice and acting style, making the character of Sebastian all the more believable.
Kelsey Halge is the chaste Annette, and the ultimate conquest for Sebastian. Originally played by Reese Witherspoon in the film, Halge’s pure songbird-like voice matches her virginal character. Her Foolish Games’ solo is so fraught with heartache, Halge makes you want to cry with her.
Outstanding comic character actors Sarah Krndija and Joseph Spanti had us all doubling over in laughter! Krndija has joined the cast for the 2023 season as Cecile (played by Selma Blair in the film) and Spanti plays Greg, the footballer who hasn’t told anyone he likes boys. Ross Chisari also joined the 2023 season cast in the role of Blaine. Chisari and Spanti’s performance of NSYNC’s Bye Bye made the audience go completely wild, which is one of the highlight songs.
Rishab Kern proves himself as quite the groover in the role of Ronald. And of course, Fem Belling holds her own in two roles as Mrs Caldwell and the therapist. Belling’s years of musical theatre experience makes her appear to be at one with the stage.
Freya List’s choreography is mind blowing! Daniel Puckey does a brilliant job as musical director and it is also nice to see silhouettes of the orchestra on stage above the performers, reminding us the musicians should be sharing the limelight with the performers. Set Designer James Browne, Lighting Designer Declan O’Neill, and Video Designer Craig Wilkinson are the problem-solving busters who came up with a visually stunning yet effective set; this would have been no easy feat. Costume Designer Isaac Lummis probably has the most fun job in this production, and absolutely nailed the fashion of the 90s.
The Australian tour of Cruel Intentions: the '90s Musical is the raddest musical you will ever see; everything and everyone in it make it a perfect production. It’s showing at HOTA on the Gold Coast until 29 January 2023.
Photography by Nicole Cleary.