Cruel Intentions at The Other Palace
Cruel Intentions has finally hit London! After an off Broadway run and a stint at the Edinburgh festival the show has finally hit London. I caught it back in 2019 at the Edinburgh Festival and I was keen to see what had changed from its run there.
The musical is based on the 1999 film of the same name which since its release has become somewhat of a cult classic. The musical harnesses the nostalgia factor along with a 90’s jukebox score which had the 90’s child in me in heaven throughout. The show tells of Kathryn and her step brother Sebastian who agree a wager about Annette, a new girl in town who has written an article declaring that she will save herself until marriage. If Sebastian seduces her then Kathryn agrees to sleep with him, but if he fails then she gets his car. At the same time Kathryn enlists his help in trying to ruin Cecile, a new freshman who Kathryn’s boyfriend left her for. Many of the main characters in the show are distinctly unlikeable, from Kathryn who is a master manipulator through to Cecile who is so naive it is almost painful but despite the characters being unlikeable the show is far from it and simply embraces the teenage angst and darkness.
The show remains very firmly set in the 90’s and this is where the score draws all of its influences. Of course Bittersweet Symphony which featured in the original film is in the show but so are a ton of other huge 90’s hits, with everything from Wanna Be (a new addition for London) through to Torn and from No Scrubs to Just A Girl. The songs may be shoehorned in but to be frank I didn’t care and neither did the cast. The crowd erupted as many of the first familiar refrains rang out and many of the lyric changes had me in stiches. The show is one that does not take itself too seriously and to have Cecile burst into Ace of Base’s ‘The Sign’ when she describes her first encounter with Sebastian or Blaine and Greig singing Britney Spear’s ‘Sometimes’ at the beginning of a make out session ensures that the audience knows that its ok to laugh with them in this show.
In being able to laugh at itself through the book and the score everything else has to be spot on, especially the delivery and thanks to this cast it really was. Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky played master manipulator and she was so successful in her portrayal that whilst she was deeply unlikeable you couldn’t help but have some admiration for her. I adored her poise on stage and her soft rock, pop vocals suited this type of music perfectly. Abbie Budden, whilst a familiar name to many TikTok users makes her professional debut in the role of Annette Hargrove. She was perfect casting for this role, innocent but charismatic, you easily believed that Sebastian could fall for her and after her triple threat performance I’m excited to see what the future holds for Budden on stage. Daniel Bravo played Sebastian and he was a masterclass in how to ooze sexual confidence on stage, the perfect combination of arrogance and charisma for the part and I wouldn’t be surprised that if by the end of the show 95% of the audience didn’t want to be his next conquest.
Everything about the show is slick, the chorography by Gary Lloyd merges 90’s moves with modern moves to keep the contemporary audience entertained without losing the vibe from the original songs themselves. The costumes designed by Polly Sullivan are spot on, with iconic school uniforms appearing at the very opening and closing of the show. Equally the 3 leading ladies all have very distinct looks which works brilliantly in going even further to establish their character differences.
Cruel Intentions is a fun, energy filled night out. It is the perfect musical for those that enjoy camp, in your face musicals with a blistering 90’s score.
Cruel Intentions is on at The Other Palace until 14th April. You can find out more and book your tickets here.