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Review: Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical Experience

In the canon of ’90s teen movies, certain memorable films stand out: 10 Things I Hate About You for Julia Stiles’s rage against Heath Ledger and the man at large. Clueless for its glimpse of a very polished California way of life, Cher and Dionne’s pitch-perfect style, and oh so many one-liners: “You see how picky I am about my shoes, and those only go on my feet”—so relatable.

And then there’s Cruel Intentions, a sexy and dark tale of twisted sibling rivalry and emotional warfare. You’ve seen it. You love it. How could you not? The banter and biting barbs between Sebastian and Kathryn alone are enough to make me re-watch the movie at least yearly (and recite the lines right along with the characters on screen), to say nothing of the baby blue innocence of Reese Witherspoon as Annette Hargrove falling for the wrong guy, as so many of us do.

So what could possibly be better than just watching the movie again? Seeing it live, in person, as a musical, with snacks and cocktails to boot. That’s right, Bitches, the sonic seduction that is Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical Experience has made its way home to New York City and it’s playing every week at (le) Poisson Rouge until February 19, 2018.

The musical is a faithful adaptation of the film (itself an adaptation of Les Liaisons dangeureuses, an 18th-century French novel) interspersed with all your favorite relevant songs from the ’90s used to supplement the dialogue, though thankfully some of the movie’s best lines still made the cut. (“Email is for geeks and pedophiles”—oh, 1999, you’re in for a big surprise.)

We’re talking throwback hits like “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” by Garbage, “I’m Just a Girl” by No Doubt, “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys, “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve, and more. I knew all the words to almost every single track and had to actively stop myself from jumping on stage and singing along—such was the sense of harmony in the room, literally and figuratively, I suppose. We all know the Cruel Intentions story by now, and when you know what’s about to happen next, you almost feel like you’re in the story yourself.

The pared-back, minimal production and side-by-side seating added to this sense of community. For the most of the show, there’s just a stage, the actors, and their incredible voices. (Le) Poisson Rouge is an intimate music venue, so the space lends itself well to hosting a small production like this one. We sat on the floor at one of the tables where you can order drinks and snacks (a must) and had a great view; in fact, there’s hardly a bad seat in the house. From the audience’s point of view, Kathryn is just a girl, singing in front of a boy, baiting him to devirginize their future classmate—and she’s doing it in a bustier less than three feet away from your face. Like I said, intimate.

I could continue to sing praises of this incredibly fun show—Sebastian’s swagger is spot on; yes, that definitely is the mom from Home Improvement; damn these girls can sing—but trust me when I say it’s something you have to experience for yourself. All you need to do now is find a date on your calendar and book your tickets (starting at $49). There are lots of 3 p.m. Sunday matinees happening in January—perfect for a boozy brunch date with the ladies.

PS: Guess what, Bitches! We’re giving away one pair of tickets to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is follow Bitches Who Brunch on Twitter (@BWBrunchNYC), tag us using the hashtag #CruelBitches, and tell us why you want to go see the show. Best of luck!

Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical Experience
(le) Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012


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