Among the camp film classics of the ’90s, few movies are as beloved (or reviled, depending on who you ask) as 1999’s Cruel Intentions, the modern-day adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons starring Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Selma Blair and Ryan Phillippe. Like so many films, it’s become a musical — but not a traditional Broadway showstopper. Cruel Intentions (subtitled “The ’90s Musical Experience”) is now a beloved off-Broadway show that’s played to sold-out crowds in club venues on both coasts.
Created by Jordan Ross and Lindsey Rosin in collaboration with the original movie’s writer, Roger Kumble, the show opened in Los Angeles in 2015 and is in the midst of an extended run at New York’s (Le) Poisson Rouge (through March 16). Ross and Rosin, along with stars Constantine Rousouli (Sebastian) and Carrie St. Louis (Annette), stopped by the Billboard on Broadway podcast recently to chat about the production.
Above all, the show is propelled by a score jam-packed with ’90s hits, including both iconic tunes from the movie (The Verve‘s “Bittersweet Symphony,” Counting Crows‘ “Colorblind”) and mind-blowing mashups — including one blending Sixpence None the Richer, Marcy Playground, Garbage and *NSYNC. “The soundtrack is iconic,” says Ross, but making the movie into a show meant filling in story and making sure song choices fit inside of a narrative arc. “It’s hysterical, it’s offensive in so many ways, but that’s what makes it special. We don’t have to take ourselves too seriously, and you can be on this emotional roller coaster from start to finish.”
“Our musical is a love letter to the movie,” Rosin adds, “so we do it as straightforward as we can. But it sneaks up on people just how emotional the source material is. There are these elements of betrayal and heartbreak and love and all these things that work so well onstage. You mix classic theater with pop music and you get this wonderful night out.” The show’s “nostalgia factor” is strong, too, as St. Louis says. “It reminds you of a time in your life, and you’re immediately transported back to that.”
In their discussion with host Rebecca Milzoff, the cast and creators delve into their favorite musical moments, how the club setting enhances the performance, and what happened when the stars of the movie came to see the show.