After touring around the country in 2022 to standing ovations and sold-out performances, Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical is back in Melbourne and is bigger and better.
Nestled in Melbourne’s iconic Athenaeum theatre, Cruel Intentions will run for the next two weeks offering one of the biggest 90’s parties throwback theatre events that elder millennials like me could ever ask for. It is a wild and lavish affair that appears to have been refined, offering a nostalgia-filled experience that you will want to see over and over again.
Based on the 1999 film starring then-teen stars Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe and Selma Blair, the story follows step-siblings Kathryn (Kirby Burgess) and Sebastian (Drew Weston) as they enter the school year with a wager. Sebastian must take the new headmaster’s daughter Annette’s (Kelsey Hale) virginity or Kathryn will get his 1956 Jaguar. What follows is a twisted web of lies, deceit, sexual games, love and family. It hardly sounds like the setting for a 90s party, fortunately, this adaptation manages to deal with all the dark and heavy themes and infuse them with a lot more comedy and fun than the movie version.
From the second the first note is sung, it is clear that this nostalgic fuelled adventure is not here to mess around. The sets are decorated with neon lights, the costumes are incredibly reminiscent of the time and the songs are seamlessly blended into the story being incredibly reminiscent of the musical version of Moulin Rouge. The songs feature hits like Bye Bye Bye from N’Sync, Genie in a Bottle from Christina Aguilera and No Scrubs from TLC. If like me, you were well into your 90’s pop/rock, you will revel in songs like Only Happy When It Rains and Iris. There are also four songs from the original movie soundtrack Every Me & Every You by Placebo and of course Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve. The anticipation for “what song’s coming next” reaches an absolute fever pitch by the halfway point throughout this show. Hearing the audiences squeal of delight when their favourite 90’s song came on, made this show so much more enjoyable.
The roster of actors in this show delivers some truly iconic performances, none more than Kirby Burgess who commands the stage every time her character Kathryn appears. Burgess portrays the teen “IT” girl perfectly while still able to tap into the darkness that Kathryn’s character needs. Her vocal prowess is phenomenal, offering a scene-stealing performance in every number. Burgess is the gem of this production. Equally up to the task is Drew Weston’s Sebastian. He delivers a smooth performance of Sebastian, playing off Burgess’s more sly and comedic take on Kathryn. Newcomer Ross Chisari taking the role of Blaine is wildly fun and energetic as he takes this stereotype of a character that we know from the film and expands upon the role delivering an incredibly charming and outrageously queer performance.
The sets are nothing short of spectacular. The use of projection mapping overlaying the lyrics to the songs in time with the performances are simply breathtaking. Being able to then switch this up to portray the crowded streets of New York City and lavish apartments is a huge achievement for a production of this size. This goes hand in hand with the lighting designer Drew O’Neil who syncs in with the sets to make this world come alive on the stage.
Cruel Intentions : The ’90s Musical is an extremely fun and energetic production. Taking a quite dark and controversial subject matter and turning it into a massive 90’s throwback romp is no easy feat. Fortunately the culmination of a talented cast and incredibly beautiful production and set design combine with lighting effects to deliver one of the best shows seen in Melbourne. There is an infectious energy that surrounds this production making it extremely hard to stay in your seat while the cast are smashing out the 90’s hits in a true celebration of this iconic moment in time.
If you are looking for an epic night out in Melbourne, do not miss Cruel Intentions : The ’90s musical.
Photos by Steven Grevis
Cruel Intentions is playing at the Athenaeum Theatre through to March 5th 2023.
Tickets available via Ticketmaster here
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