Thursday, October 6, 2022

CRUEL INTENTIONS - The 90's Musical

Kirby Burgess & Drew Weston in "Cruel Intentions"

Directed by Alister Smith – Musical Direction by Daniel Puckey

Choreographed by Freya List – Scenic Design by James Browne

Costume Design by Isaac Lummis – Lighting Design by Declan O’Neill

Sound Design by Greg Ginger – Wigs designed by Trent Whitmore.

Canberra Theatre 5th to 8th October 2022.

Performance on 5th October reviewed by Bill Stephens

Drew Weston & company in "Cruel Intentions"

“Cruel Intentions – The 90’s Musical” draws its inspiration from the eighteenth century novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” about two amoral lovers who become rivals as they amuse themselves by ruining others before ultimately destroying each other.

As the title implies, this modern adaptation transposes the action into the 1990’s where some of the victims are college students. In fact the musical opens with one of the protagonists, 18 year-old Sebastian, finishing a therapy session for sex addiction.

Kirsty Burgess and Cast of "Cruel Intentions"

The musical incorporates a slew of 90’s hit songs though which the characters express their feelings.  Heading an excellent multi-talented cast, Kirby Burgess is outstanding as the potty-mouthed, drug-addled,  Ann-Margret look-alike, femme-fatale half of the destructive duo, Kathryn Merteuil. Whether delivering lines which would make a wharfie blush, or introducing her young victim, Lucille, to the joys of sex, Burgess offers a mesmerising star performance.

 Her carefully nuanced acting together with her cyclonic  singing and dancing in the  brilliantly staged rendition of “Bitch/Losing my Religion” followed by “ Kathryn’s Turn”  in the second half of the show, is every bit as  riveting  as the  iconic  “Roses Turn” in “Gypsy”  to which it pays  obvious homage, and marks her as a top-shelf musical theatre leading lady.

Equally impressive as Kathryn’s venal accomplice, Sebastian Valmont, Drew Weston is a stylish singer and dancer who’s not afraid to flaunt his nude buff bod in the services of art or seduction as Kathryn’s venal accomplice, Sebastian Valmont, in an unholy duo you love to hate.

Rishab Kern & Francine Cain in "Cruel Intentions"

The strong supporting cast includes Francine Cain in a very funny comedic performance as the enthusiastic and willing seductee of the pair. Kelsey Hodge   shines as the not-so-naïve Annette Hargrove who ultimately causes the downfall of both Sebastian and Kathryn.

Euan Fistrovic Doidge, soon to be seen in the leading role of  a new production of  “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, together with  Joseph Spanti  as his college-jock boyfriend provide the obligatory gay content, while Rishab Kern and Fem Belling add spice to the proceedings as Cecile’s coloured  cello teacher, and her stitched-up mother.

Joseph Spanti & Euan Fistrovic Doidge in "Cruel Intentions"

The talented ensemble , which include Sheridan Adams, Darcey Eagle, Etuate Lutui, Daniel Evbachev and Morgan Heynes , who together understudy all the leading roles, are kept busy moving  James Browne’s  beautiful, versatile setting around the stage, while at the same time  executing Freya List’s inventive choreography. They manage this multi-tasking with considerable panache, as does Daniel Puckey and his punchy band, which can be glimpsed up-stage, high above the proceedings.

Particularly notable among the excellent production values for this show are the imaginative contributions of the sound, lighting and video designers, particularly the remarkable video projections which throughout the show cover the setting with the lyrics of the songs, not for the audience to sing to, but as part of the visual design, as well as accent the thoughts of the characters.

While some may find the subject matter unsavoury, “Cruel Intentions” is a slickly produced and performed smart, sophisticated adult musical, with exemplary production values, which received an enthusiastic reception on its Canberra opening night from the predominately young audience. 

                                                Images by Nicole Cleary 

  This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.