Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical is a nostalgic jukebox show, adapted from the 1999 film of the same name. Featuring a score composed of popular songs from the film’s soundtrack and the banging 90s, the musical’s original creative team includes Roger Kumble (the film’s writer and director) Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross. The film Cruel Intentions itself is a contemporary reimagining of the 1782 French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. With its irresistible blend of iconic tunes and ’90s charm, Cruel Intentions quickly became a sensation. Productions have graced stages in Hollywood, New York, Australia and Edinburgh and a noteworthy concert production was live-streamed around New Years Eve in 2021. Now, the spotlight turns to London and audiences can once again be seduced by Kathryn and Sebastian Valmont as Cruel Intentions makes its London debut at The Other Palace.
Cruel Intentions follows step-siblings as Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil, manipulative monsters flushed with their own sexual prowess, engage in a cruel bet: Kathryn goads Sebastian into attempting to seduce Annette Hargrove, the headmaster’s virtuous daughter. Weaving a web of secrets and temptation, the two set out to destroy an innocent girl — and anyone who gets in their way. Their vengeful crusade wreaks havoc on the students at their exclusive Manhattan high school and the diabolical duo become entangled in their own web of deception and unexpected romance, with explosive results!
In this The Other Palace production Jonathan O’Boyle (The Last Five Years, Hair, The View Upstairs) directs Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky (Six, Tina, Grease) as Kathryn and Daniel Bravo (Witness for the Prosecution, Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens) as Sebastian, Abbie Budden (Peter Pan, TikTok star) as Annette, Rose Galbraith (Old Friends) as Cecile, Josh Barnett (Newsies, Last 5 Years, Grease) as Blaine, Jess Buckby (42nd Street, Anything Goes) as Ms Bunny Caldwell/Dr Greenbaum, Nickcolia King-N’Da (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Running with Lions) as Ronald and Barney Wilkinson (Bonnie & Clyde, Bat out of Hell) as Greg. They’re joined by an ensemble of Craig Watson (ITV1’s Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream, Bat Out Of Hell, School of Rock), Nathan Lorainey-Dineen (& Juliet, Motown the Musical), Charlotte O’Rourke (Mamma Mia! I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical) and Verity Thompson (Heathers, Old Friends).
As our gruesome twosome Kathryn and Sebastian, both Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky and Daniel Bravo seem perfectly cast. Delivering the iconic lines from the film with absolute gusto, McCaulsky shines as Kathryn and her eleventh hour number Kathryn’s Turn had me on the edge of my seat. Daniel Bravo delivered a subtle performance that was absolutely spot on for Sebastian. As the emotional heart of Cruel Intentions, Sebastian’s broody, pampered, angsty 90s demeanour was putty in Bravo hands and the audience ate it up. Abbie Budden was fantastic throughout as Annette as she belted out hits Just A Girl, Lovefool, Torn and Foolish Games with relish. Rose Galbraith had so much fun as the hilarious Cecile and the audience joined in cheering for her sexual awakening through corny 90s dialogue and hits like The Sign, I Don’t Want To Wait and I’ll Make Love To You. As Blaine and Greg, Josh Barnett and Barney Wilkinson were scene-stealing. Not having much screen time in the original film, Greg and Blaine’s relationship is explored more in the musical to wonderous effect through bangers like Sex and Candy, Bye Bye Bye, Sometimes and a very clever use of the Spice Girls Wannabe. Jess Buckby was an absolute riot as Ms Bunny Caldwell with her rendition of No Scrubs being an Act One highlight while Nickcolia King-N’Da as Ronald was excellent throughout and his duet with Cecile on Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a joy. The ensemble of Craig Watson, Nathan Lorainey-Dineen, Charlotte O’Rourke and Verity Thompson all performed with fantastic energy which provided fantastic vocal and dance support throughout the evening.
Roger Kumble’s script for Cruel Intentions provides some iconic absolutely ridiculous lines such as Kathryn’s “I’m the Marcia fucking Brady of the Upper East Side and sometimes I want to kill myself…” or her “You can put it anywhere…” Jonathan O’Boyle’s production leans into this ridiculousness providing many nods to the audience. The jukebox hits fit perfectly into the show and writers Kumble, Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross have done wonders allocating songs and lyrics to the characters we know and love turning the well known 90s tunes into storytelling gold. While an absolute riot of a night out, Cruel Intentions: The 90s musical is also an extremely clever and well written jukebox musical.
Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical at The Other Palace is absolute perfection. As someone who grew up coveting the film and it’s soundtrack, this production was everything I hoped it would be and more and I can’t wait to see it again… and again. Stop whatever you think you’re doing with your life and get tickets to see the newest musical party in town. “Are you in or are you out?”
Reviewed by Stuart James
Take a look at the cast of Cruel Intentions at the West End Wilma Awards