How much fun can you have watching a pair of step-siblings plotting and scheming to destroy the lives of everyone around them? A lot, it would seem going by the Saturday night audience at The Assembly’s Spiegeltent Palais du Variété, and especially when the plot is set to a cavalcade of 90’s hit songs as it is in Cruel Intentions, the off broadway musical making its UK Premier at Edinburgh Fringe.
Based on the Roger Kumble movie that starred Ryan Phillipe and Sarah Michelle Geller, the plot is pretty similar – no surprise as the musical is created by Kumble along with Jordan Ross and Lindsey Rosin. The impossibly handsome Sebastian Valmont, and his step sister Kathryn Merteuil set about cementing their status at school through a myriad of complex schemes which mainly rotate around Sebastian taking the virginity of Annette Hargrove.
As is so often the case with these juke box style musicals, the songs, which range from Britney Spears to The Verve, are shoehorned in to any available plot point no matter how tenacious the link may be. It becomes almost a game for the audience, guessing which song will fit with the line that immediately proceeds it.
Some particularly cheesy choices left members of the audience giggling in to their hands, but any kind of cringe the audience may have felt immediately dissipated when they discovered the tunes were in the capable hands of a sterling cast of West End performers.
Dominic Anderson not only succeeds in making some cheesy pop tunes sound like musical theatre classics, he grips the audience with his masterful portrayal of the cold-hearted Sebastian. Rebecca Gilhooley’s seductive Kathryn is an equal match in the game playing stakes, while Scott Hunter and Ashley Samuels make a big impact in the roles of Blaine and Ronald respectively. Sophie Isaacs as Annette Hargrove gives an exceptional performance, with stunning vocals that left the audience begging for more.
Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle, Cruel Intentions is as wonderful as it is absurd, O’Boyle has made sure that everyone on and off stage knows exactly what this production is, an erotically charged, incredibly fun musical that invites the audience in on the joke and makes sure they love every second. It is, in every way possible, a crowd-pleaser of epic proportions.
Main Image Credit: The Other Richard