Review: ‘Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical’ Cured My Depression

cruel intentions the 90s musical cast australia

“This is the best thing I’ve ever seen in my LIFE!” — these are the actual words I gushed to my friends at intermission while seeing Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide.

Cruel Intentions is a millennial masterpiece, and after successful runs in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, I was finally able to bask in the live musical adaptation of the iconic ’90s flick when it premiered in Adelaide on September 9.

Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect — I’m not a huge theatre nerd, but I am an elderly millennial who mostly listens to Y2K pop and lives for nostalgia, and Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical most certainly delivered.

The film had one of the most iconic soundtracks of the ’90s, and the songs it chooses to incorporate into the musical from said soundtrack — The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”, Placebo’s “Every You Every Me”, and “Colorblind” by Counting Crows — are highlights for ’90s soundtrack enthusiasts.

As a friend remarked to me during intermission, though, the rest of the jukebox musical numbers — which include hits like “Bye Bye Bye” by *NSYNC, “Sometimes” by Britney Spears, “Genie in a Bottle” by Christina Aguilera, “Candy” by Mandy Moore, as well as “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer and “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls — are woven into the production more cleverly than either of us predicted. Not only do they fit the era and the campy production, they punctuate the plot, and hearing Kathryn (played by Kirby Burgess) break into Garbage’s “Only Happy When It Rains” after delivering her iconic “I’m the Marcia f**king Brady of the Upper East Side” monologue is nothing short of iconic.

While we’re on the topic of dialogue, the musical stays very true to the film (which is, of course, based on the literary classic, Dangerous Liasons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos) and if you have a favourite line from the movie, it’s likely in the musical as well.

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, it follows wealthy Upper East Side step-siblings Kathryn Merteuil and Sebastian Valmont (Drew Watson), who make a pact that if Sebastian can sleep with the virginal new student at their high school, Annette Hargrove, then Kathryn will sleep with him. They’re step-siblings! It’s fine! (It’s not exactly fine, but let’s not get bogged down in details).

Look, let’s be real for a moment. Are the wigs clockable-from-the-back-row bad? Perhaps. Is the concept of these definitely adult cast members playing high school students laughable? A little! But who cares? When the curtain goes up and the band starts playing “Every You Every Me”, none of that matters even a little.

The cast is fantastic, with Burgess as Kathryn carrying the show’s biggest numbers and Francine Cain as Cecile Caldwell stealing every scene she’s in.

Cruel Intentions is the perfect send up of the ‘90s, and shows us just how far we’ve come since,” said Burgess in a press release. “Kathryn is basically the villain, and while she does some very bad things, she’s demonised for being sexually liberated. I love that she takes a stand about this, with such great lines.”

Leaving the theatre, I was elated. I’d just heard over a dozen iconic hits, I’d laughed, I’d gasped (had I forgotten how problematique this film was in places? Very much so!), I had a fantastic time.

I’m convinced: If I could see this show every day, my mental health would be cured for good. As it stands, it’s now been three days since I saw it and I’m still riding high on pop hits and good vibes, so it might be time for a medical study into the effects of Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical on the brain? I don’t know, I’m not a scientist.

After a successful first run across Australia, Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical is set to premiere on the Gold Coast in early 2023, before returning to Sydney and Melbourne for second runs. You can find out more at cruelintentions.com.au.

Gold Coast

Where: HOTA

When: January 19 — 29, 2023

Tickets: HOTA


Where: Riverside Theatre

When: February 02 — 12, 2023

Tickets: Ticketmaster


Where: Athenaeum Theatre

When: From February 16, 2023

Tickets: Ticketmaster

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