If you ever found yourself midway through watching the 1999 film Cruel Intentions and said to yourself, “This teen melodrama is great, but I wish they would start singing at one another,” then you’re in for great news. Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical is bringing its staged tale of love and betrayal to the AT&T Performing Arts Center on May 22-26.
Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical is a recent addition to the library of films given the stage musical treatment. Originally debuting in Los Angeles for limited runs in 2015, the production made its off-Broadway debut at the Manhattan nightclub (Le) Poisson Rouge two years later. The off-Broadway version of the show used the intimate cabaret setting to their advantage, having cast members singing inches away from the audience as drinks were ordered and servers moved nimbly around roaming performers.
The touring production Dallas will host has a more traditional staging. The team behind the musical, adapting to a larger stage, added a fully built set and choreography to accompany songs. For the cast, like Houston native Brooke Singer who plays Cecile (the role made famous by Selma Blair), the touring show is an entirely new production they can take ownership of.
“It’s exciting. It takes it to the next level,” Singer says. “It’s everything you want it to be. It’s like a VMA concert.”
Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical isn’t a case of originally written songs relaying the familiar story of step-siblings Kathryn and Sebastian’s sexual treachery. Instead the musical employs a jukebox-style selection of pop hits from the ’90s. By utilizing the original soundtrack for the film, which included hits like The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony,” while also incorporating other hits from the decade, it gives viewers an immediate entry to the tone of the production.
“Not only is it super nostalgic in all the songs, but it works so well with the show,” Singer says. “I tell people it’s like the '90s musical. It’s absolutely seamless the way that the team has put together the way the scene work goes in and out of the songs. You’re like, ‘Oh wow, that Christina Aguilera song works so well for this moment.’”
The popularity of the musical coincides with a special anniversary for the film it's based on. Audiences can relive the overly sexed high schoolers’ adventures in theaters again, because the movie is being re-released nationwide in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary.
Singer was a fan of the movie, and her love for the cult-hit drove her to take friends to the off-Broadway version during its successful extended run. Although she’s familiar with the mannerisms that original actress Blair brought to Cecile’s on-screen performance, Singer says she was encouraged by the production team to take liberties and make the role her own.
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“Selma Blair is iconic, and her role in this is iconic,” Singer says. “So for me personally, I am trying to make it my own, with also paying respect to every brilliant thing she did. So it’s like a little bit of her but a little bit of me. It’s like I definitely want to give people what they want, like if they’re waiting for a certain moment, but I’m taking my own approach to it.”
Singer and the crew are making numerous stops on the tour of the show, hitting a wide selection of major cities on the East Coast. But the Houston native is enthusiastic about the chance to perform for her Dallas relatives. Now based out of New York, Singer relishes opportunities to revisit her home state, especially with a cast and show she’s proud of.
“The cast is absolutely perfect,” Singer says. “I mean they took their time casting, and you can just tell that everyone is so perfect for the role they’re playing. On day one we started singing the music [and] it was like mind-blowing — that first moment of all of us sitting down together and singing these songs. And I’m a ’90s kid, so it was just super nostalgic for me. And I think that’s what’s fun is getting to sing these iconic songs and play these characters.”