While Liev Schreiber is starring in Les Liaisons Dangereuses on Broadway, something just as scandalous, but a little more nostalgic has been happening downtown. Cruel Intentions The Musical hit New York City for a whirlwind limited engagement that would thrill '90s kids everywhere. In an interview with Bustle, Pretty Little Liars actor and star Janel Parrish and Cruel Intentions The Musical creators Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross reveal just what makes this cult classic perfect for a cabaret jukebox musical.
The Pretty Little Liars star got her start in musical theatre, so this is a return to her roots. She played Young Cosette/Eponine in Les Miserables on Broadway, which was definitely my childhood dream. Parrish's dream role, however, is Kim in Miss Saigon, which is a deep cut (and returning to Broadway), as well as Mimi in Rent and now, Eliza in Hamilton. "It really is just a dream to be back here as an adult and doing theater," she says. Her involvement with this show should come as no surprise, and she's been involved from the start.
"I've been good friends with Jordan Ross for a long time," says Parrish. "He created this amazing concept and asked me to come on to be one of the Kathryns [in Los Angeles] and I was stoked because I mean this was the movie growing up." Now, in New York, she's flipping the script and playing Cecile, Selma Blair's character from the original movie. "It's just fun and it's sexy and it's wonderful," says Parrish.
The hilarious musical tells the story of the '90s cult classic using some of your favorite songs of the decade, including hits from Britney Spears, Goo Goo Dolls, Backstreet Boys, Alanis Morissette, and of course, The Verve, to name a few. "It allows the show to be accessible to everyone," Ross says of using such popular music. "Not just Cruel Intentions fans." And he's right. I went to the show with someone who had, shockingly, never seen the movie — and she loved it just as much as I did.
"These movies, they are heightened in a way. The way that '90s music is heightened," says Rosin. "There's a really nice marriage between this soundtrack and this material that we're all having fun exploring on stage." The show is jam-packed with solos and mash-ups that will make your inner '90s kid squeal with joy, and if you are a fan of the movie, you'll recognize four of the songs from its original soundtrack.
"As Cecile, my favorite song is '2 Become 1,'" says Parrish. "Cecile is kind of a silly character, and I get to unleash my inner goofball and have fun with it." The song occurs during Cecile's sexual awakening by way of Sebastian. "It's kind of fun because you get to be a little bit of a train wreck, and and go back to your inner 14-year-old girl in your room with your hairbrush, singing along to the Spice Girls. You think you're being really sexy but you just like, aren't."
Audiences have responded positively to show since the beginning, as Ross says of its previous sold-out engagements in Los Angeles, "The love for the film couldn't have been more apparent." He and Rosin also co-wrote the Cruel Intentions pilot on NBC with the original film's screenwriter and director Roger Kumble that was sadly not ordered to series. Luckily, their take on the cult classic lives on in New York exactly two years later to the day, and since they've worked with (and seen in the audience) the original creative team and members of the original cast, this show is extra precious.
"Cruel Intentions The Musical was never a parody," says Ross. "[It] was always a love letter to a film that Lindsay and I both really loved."
The show ran for a three-night engagement at New York's (le) poisson rouge in the East Village, also starring Tony nominee Jennifer Damiano as Kathryn Merteuil, who was on Broadway last year singing '80s songs as the mild Jean in American Psycho and was able to play the antihero this time as Kathryn Merteuil. Constantine Rousouli from How To Be A Vampire also reprised his role as Sebastian from the LA cast, while Natalie Hall plays Reese Witherspoon's former character, Annette Hargrove.
In LA, the cast rotated to accommodate TV filming schedules, Rosin and Ross tell me, which means that if you missed Cruel Intentions The Musical during its New York run, you could get another chance. It's the kind of cabaret experience that can always come back with new people, or some of the returning cast.
Or, another classic film could get a jukebox musical makeover. "She's All That would be amazing," suggests Parrish. "10 Things I Hate About You. All those angsty '90s movie that people my age grew up watching." Ross and Rosin are also hoping to get their adaptation of A Walk To Remember, which starred Parrish as Jamie, re-launched in Los Angeles and maybe New York as well. Keep an eye out, because the nostalgic hits are likely to keep on coming and let you relive your '90s favorites, if only for one night.