Theater Review: CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE ’90s MUSICAL (Ray of Light at Victoria Theatre)

Post image for Theater Review: CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE ’90s MUSICAL (Ray of Light at Victoria Theatre)

by Chuck Louden on September 16, 2023

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


The Bay Area’s Ray of Light Theater is known for putting fresh interpretations on classic shows, most notably musicals that push boundaries, such as Kinky Boots and The Full Monty. Their latest production is Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical, and it’s a winner. Based on Roger Kumble’s campy 1999 movie starring , Reese Witherspoon & Ryan Phillipe, bookwriters Kumble, Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross use a score made up of hit songs from the 1990s.


Set in New York, the story involves two spoiled and rich step-siblings who get their kicks setting up and humiliating peers with sadistic pleasure at their private high school. Sebastian Valmont (Jake Gale, reminiscent of a young Jude Law) is the campus Lothario, viewing all the girls on campus as conquests or notches on his bedpost.


Kathryn Merteuil (Chelsea Holifield) is his cold-hearted stepsister (Sarah Michelle Gellar in the movie). Evil and gorgeous, Kathryn uses her role as class president to manipulate her peers to do her bidding to gain her favor. Recently dumped by her boyfriend for another woman, Kathryn convinces her brother to seduce the girl: Annette Hargrove (Marah Sotelo), who is clean, pristine and still a virgin (played by a young Reese Witherspoon in the film).


In other subplots Kathryn has promised to look after a freshman girl, Cecile Caldwell, played with wide-eyed innocence and hilarious facial expressions by Anne Norland. Kathryn contrives several humorous scenarios to humiliate her young charge. Assisting Sebastian is flamboyantly gay Blaine Tuttle (hysterical and hunky Samuel Prince) who is having an affair with the closeted captain of the football team Greg McConnell (Doug Geer playing the stereotypical dumb jock). Unfortunately for Kathryn, things don’t go according to plan with the seduction. Sebastian begins to develop feelings for the smart and self-assured Annette.


Kathryn is forced to rethink her plan, dragging others into her web of blackmail and deceit. Sebastian, struggling with his feelings for Annette, is for the first time in his life, developing a conscience. Hijinks and unexpected tragic events change the whole outcome.


Of course what takes this classic tale to new heights the recognition of fun, recognizable ’90s pop songs. Director and choreographer Leslie Waggoner has recruited a talented cast of singers and dancers. When I tell you that principals and ensemble members alike are fantastic, you better believe it. The cast belts out tunes like professional pop singers.


Music Director and keyboardist Jad Bernardo’s fantastic live band — consisting of Lane Sanders on drums, Mike Smith on guitar, and David Kelly-Tuason on bass — is phenomenal. But the pro-rock quality is quite loud. Not all the singers have the pipes to sing over the music — we should never have to strain to make out the lyrics. Sharon Boggs & Sound Productions should have made the balance better.


I loved Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In a Bottle”; Natalie Imbruglia’s cover of “Torn” and R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” Also notable is Sebastian & Annette’s duet — reminiscent of young love a la Romeo & Juliet — as they test out their relationship in Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me”; and the chorus boys executing great breaks in NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye”. The patrons were thrilled. It was not just theater, but like being at a teen “Best of the ’90s” concert. This is another fantastic and entertaining evening by Ray of Light Theatre.

photos courtesy of ROLT

Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical
Ray of Light Theatre
Victoria Theatre (480 seats), 2961 16th Street (between Mission and Capp)
ends on October 1, 2023
for tickets, visit SF Cruel Intentions or ROLT

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

btcnews September 18, 2023 at 5:17 am

Very cool photos. Thank you for the article.


Leave a Comment