Assembly George Square Gardens Palais du Variete, Edinbugh – until 25 August 2019
Well, Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical is certainly something, though exactly what that something is, is difficult to ascertain. If the original 1999 film, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe wasn’t exactly subtle in its 1990s adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the musical goes to a whole other level. It’s a blend of 90s pop hits set among the rich suburbs of New York and it ups the camp factor to a hundred. It’s all a little bit rubbish, but seems to revel in that fact, and with a terrific cast playing it all with a little bit of a wink there’s no doubt it is often gloriously entertaining. High art, well no, but it doesn’t need to be to produce a Festival hit.
For those who missed out on the film, the plot revolves around a wager that twisted step siblings Sebastian (Dominic Andersen) and Kathryn (Rebecca Gilhooley) concoct for Sebastian to deflower the virginal headmaster’s daughter of the elite prep school they all belong too. But as Sebastian begins to fall for real for the lovely Annette (Sophie Isaacs) tragedy is inevitably just around the corner.
Director Jonathan O’ Boyle knows that it is as camp as a row of daisies so pushes the cast to play it up to the max. It’s not a show afraid to poke fun of itself in its placing of songs such as TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ when Bunny finds out that her daughter’s music teacher Ronald may have extra-curricular designs on her, or Ace Of Base’s ‘The Sign’ when Evelyn Hoskins’ Cecile discovers what an orgasm is for the first time.
This is undoubtedly the musical highlight of the evening along with Isaacs’ ‘Torn’ and these two performances are the ones that will be remembered best. Hoskins, with her wide doe-eyes, makes a much more convincing innocent than Selma Blair did in the film while Isaacs has that all-American girl thing down pat, and sings the hell out of Natalie Imbruglia’s underrated masterpiece. But song after song works on you, even as you are rolling your eyes with the on the nose-ness of it..
Much like Heathers before it, this is a work that isn’t afraid to embrace its shallowness, with six-packs and cheekbones aplenty. It is unlikely to go down as a musical theatre classic but you’re guaranteed a good night out, even if you can’t quite believe what you’re watching.