Cruel Intentions: The Musical, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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by Meredith Jones Russell

Does the world need a musical version of 1999 American teen flick Cruel Intentions? Probably not, but by God it’s entertaining.

Packing out the Underbelly’s Palais du Variete, this is closer to rock concert than musical. The mainly millennial audience is practically word perfect on both the script, which has been cut for length but otherwise largely unaltered from the screenplay, and the ‘00s hits that are peppered through the plot, often with the flimsiest justification.

The inclusion of tunes like Christina Aguilera’s Genie in a Bottle and Meredith Brookes’ Bitch are sometimes so incongruous they elicit laughs even from these most diehard of fans. It’s possible the show is shooting for ironic a lot of the time, but it can on occasion boil over into uncomfortable.

For the most part, however, it’s just ridiculously enjoyable. There’s a reason the film made a killing at the box office, and the musical version loses none of the sexy, sleazy comic darkness that made the original (or rather, the original remake of 18th century French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses) such a hit.

Some threads suffer from this truncated version, with the central romance between bad boy Sebastian Valmont (Dominic Andersen) and the saintly Annette Hargrove (Sophie Isaacs) hardly allowed any time to believably develop, but the musical numbers allow previously underwritten roles such as closeted football jock Greg McConnell (Dean John-Wilson) to flourish.

The cast, who in true teen-movie style are significantly older than the high school characters they play, are without exception superb. Rebecca Gilhooley as Kathryn Merteuil is irresistibly wicked and seductively sinful, while Evelyn Hoskins almost steals the show as gauche ingenue Cecile Caldwell. Their performances are rock-solid even where the material sometimes falters.

Cruel Intentions: The Musical runs through 25 August in Edinburgh.

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