***** 5 Stars
Review by Jody Miller
David Venn Enterprises brings the national tour of Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical, to Sydney from the 30th of June before heading off to Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra.
Based on the acclaimed cult 1999 film which was re-released to cinemas in 2019 and currently has a new TV series in development, this hit ‘90s musical sets a scandalous tone for romance and seduction, with hilariously fun scenes and exhilarating performances that will have you singing and dancing in the aisles. Are you ready to make your wager?
Beginning the show with Every You and Every Me (Placebo) this show consists of a killer lineup of back-to-back hits including Bittersweet Symphony (The Verve), Bye Bye Bye (*NSYNC), Sometimes (Britney Spears), Just A Girl (No Doubt), Foolish Games (Jewel), Genie In A Bottle (Christina Aguilera), Candy (Mandy Moore), Breakfast At Tiffany’s (Deep Blue Something), Kiss Me (Sixpence None the Richer), Iris (The Goo Goo Dolls), I’ll Make Love To You (Boyz II Men), and more.
Kirby Burgess, who plays a scheming seductress, Kathryn Mertevil, steals the stage with her demanding presence and phenomenal vocals. She fiercely portrays her characters’ manipulative side and dominates the stage with each entrance. Drew Weston plays her stepbrother in the show Sebastian Valmont, who perfectly compliments Burgess with focus and precision. Weston’s character opens the show by finishing therapy for a sex addiction at the tender age of 18, with a fierce stare on his face that does not leave him throughout all his endeavours pursued. Burgess and Weston are paired with Kelsey Halge, who makes her professional theatre debut as Annette Hargrove. Halge carries her role seamlessly, showing the depth behind the ‘girl next door’.
The authentic teenage experience is depicted through Francine Cain, who plays a naive Cecile Caldwell. Cain is a stand-out performer who comedically represents the range of emotions and personality of a teenage girl still finding her place in the world. Cain’s remarkable acting ability shines through the range of moods she portrays whilst navigating the teenage experience of dealing with parents, crush’s and friends.
Euan Fistrovic Doidge was a crowd favourite playing the role of Blaine Tuttle, a very queer and comedic character who pumps out 90’s classics such as ‘Candy’ and ‘Bye Bye Bye’. During Euan’s performance, he makes an instant connection with the audience through his alluring performance and eye contact, something which is uncommon in this setting. This worked in Euan’s favour leading the audience into the palm of his hand, falling in love with his character in an instant, and feeling his connection with the charismatic Joseph Spanti from the minute they were on the stage.
The remaining dynamic performers have been assembled as an all-Australian cast of singers, dancers and actors consisting of Joseph Spanti as Greg McConnell, Rishab Kern as Ronald Clifford, Fem Belling as Mrs Caldwell and Sheridan Adams, Darcey Eagle, Etuate Lutui, Daniel Erbacher and Morgan Heynes as the ensemble. This strong and adept cast of 13 does not miss a beat, with each performer being a stand-out in their own right, matching the vast amount of energy and intensity on stage. An honourable mention goes to Darcey Eagle, an ensemble member from Melbourne who intrigued us with her ability to hold space, capture us through sharp movement and turn a simple set transition into a captivating moment.
The real star of this production is the creative team who brought this Australian premier to life. Producer David Venn explains that this “brand new homegrown adaptation allowed local creatives to bring their idea to fruition” and that they did. Leading the creative team is the talented Allister Smith, who directs the show with precision, aligned with the phenomenal design of James Brownes’ set, Declan O’Neill’s superior lighting design and Craig Wilkinson’s video design. A perfect combination of creatives bringing a coherent and fresh take to Cruel Intentions the Musical and a real sensory visual journey throughout the show. Musical Director Daniel Puckey works alongside four musicians in the band, Audio Designed by Greg Ginger. The musicians rock out to the 90s bops on stage, becoming part of the scenery, visible to the audience, a privilege and joy for audience members.
As successfully as each creative element has come together to create this production, the point of difference comes from the unique abilities of choreographer Freya List. Her choreography was versatile and prominent, especially within the ensemble’s movement. She created a work of art designed purely for storytelling rather than the cliche, which a jukebox musical commonly delves into.
Whether you are a die-hard fan of the movie or wish to relive the ’90s through this smash hit soundtrack, there is a lot to love about this high-energy show! Cruel Intentions the 90’s Musical is one not to be missed and will be performing at Sydney’s State Theatre till the 21st of July for a limited season.
Photo credit: Nicole Cleary.