Having been asked to review this musical as a stand-in for a colleague, I'm glad I was able to watch a show that took me back to my teenage years. This musical adaptation for me was quite the hit. I remember the original film and I remember it for some good reasons and some bad reasons. This musical is well suited to the Other Palace theatre, which is quite intimate, so you feel like you are part of the show, but still has the grandeur of a larger theatre.
I remember watching the original film with a sense of guilty pleasure. The script somewhat illustrates the void of morals inherent in some wealthy young people, at least in matters of love. A combination of the original private school backdrop with a modern, 'mean girls' addition made the theme very fitting and natural, as well as very on trend given the recent release of a reworked Mean Girls musical on the silver screen.
If you are familiar with Cruel Intentions, this musical adaptation is exactly what you'd expect; it is stylish, disgustingly rich, passionate, a supermodel beauty queen of musicals, and also quite dark if you think too deeply about the motivation and behaviour of some affluent young people with a lot of privilege. It was funny and the comedy was very well timed. I found it quite spectacular, in large part because of the cast's great vocals - I am a big fan of strong vocals. There was certainly a sense of the original cast; Sarah Michelle-Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reece Witherspoon, and Selma Blaire.
It was wonderful to see such a talented group of actors on stage, but Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky as Katheyn Merteuil carried the show with her classic beauty and versatile acting, and of course her singing, which in places was deliberately soft, and in other numbers she took us to church!
The late '90s and early naughties were a great time for R&B and pop music, and this musical really made use of some great character moments to add the right songs. However, not all the songs were appropriate. The best song matches for me were Christina Aguilera's Genie in a Bottle when Kathryn (Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky) sets up a wager with Sebastian (Daniel Bravo) and TLC's No Scrubs (one of my all-time favourites). Britney Spears' Womaniser would have been an excellent addition to show Sebastian's womanizing ways in a comical manner.
Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical is a must-see!
The Other Palace
12 Palace Street
London, SW1E 5JA
Dates: 25 January - 14 April 2025
Tickets: from £25
Running time: 2 hours
Age recommendation: 15+ recommended
Contains haze, flashing lights, strong language, and mature themes including but not limited to: explicit sexual language and behaviour, racial discrimination, drug usage, abuse, accidental death, question of consent. Audience discretion advised.
As Cruel Intentions is set in 1999, some of the language reflects that time.