Production Blog

A behind the scenes peek at rehearsals, artistic choices, artist interviews, and the daily business of running a theatre.

A moment with the Director

Q: Some people might be surprised to know that this ‘90s cult classic has roots in late 18th century France. Can you tell us more about the origins of Cruel Intentions and what about this story made you want to want to direct it?

A: So here’s the deal - the epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, published in France in 1782, was a scandalous, salacious, and wildly popular piece of writing in its time. It documents the schemes of two fictional French aristocrats as they seek revenge by way of seduction and manipulation of those around them - ultimately resulting in their downfall. This story was and continues to be revolutionary, because it is a morality tale that centers blatantly duplicitous characters with complex and mysterious motivations. Basically, it was popular because it was both hot AND subversive.

(And let’s admit it, we humans have a cheeky affinity for stories that show us our shameless inner demons, let them run amok, and then ensure that they get their comeuppance. It’s satisfying and it’s fun!)

Famously, Christopher Hampton adapted the novel for his award-winning 1985 play Dangerous Liaisons (starring Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan) and subsequent 1988 movie adaptation of that play (starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, and young Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves).

Cruel Intentions is an iconically 90’s adaptation of this story, and has achieved a cult following all it’s own. Upon its release, Cruel Intentions had much the same reaction as the original French novel did - it was considered risqué and vulgar, and also everyone was watching it behind closed doors!!! It was the movie you were not supposed to let you parents know you had seen. The movie was provocative, elegant, horrible, sexy, and unashamed. The boldness of it was intoxicating and frankly, a helluva lot of fun! In fact, I was talking to someone just the other day, and the show came up in conversation, and the simple mention of the title brought a huge smile and laugh to their face. They said it was one of their absolute favorite movies! It holds a special place for a lot of people.

In the work of preparing to direct this production, I felt it was important to look at the various adaptations of this story. What stuck out to me was that each time a mainstream variation of Dangerous Liaisons popped up, it seemed to be around or preceding some sort of societal breaking point. Even the original French novel itself only just preceded the French Revolution. In just the past year alone, there has been a modern movie adaptation released on Netflix and also a prequel television series to the original 1782 novel released by Starz. So clearly, we are interested in this story right now - there is a demand for it. Which makes me wonder, what are we as a society interested in getting out of this story? Why is this story back in the zeitgeist? I have many thoughts, some of which have been profoundly personal and others are widely global.

On a practical note, the ‘90s are back in a big way right now in pop culture. I think there is a nostalgia for a simpler time before Twitter and Amazon and Zoom. It is a time that is still fresh enough in our memories, but is also far enough away to conjure feelings for many of childhood comfort and youth - myself included. And how can you not mention the absolutely iconic fashion and music of the 90’s?!

On a more intellectual note, if we are to look at the times we are currently in, it makes sense that this story should reappear now. We are in a time where we acknowledge that we are operating within broken systems that are failing us and they are failing our youth - both the young generations today AND our collective youth, that thing we are nostalgic for. Much like late 18th century France, we are in the middle of a reckoning as a society. (We all know what happened at the end of the 18th century in France, we’ve heard the stories - Les Miserables, Marie Antoinette, the Bastille.) And it is my fierce hope that we can simultaneously be entertained by this story AND listen to the lessons that it has to offer.

This story is a blast!! It allows us to escape into a tale of delicious debauchery with some of the most incredible songs that the decade has to offer. And it also gives us something to think about and consider about ourselves and our society.

We can’t wait to share this production with you. It’s sure to be a night of nostalgic bliss!

Happy Hunting!

A chat with Hannah Valdovinos on the tunes in CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE ‘90S MUSICAL

Q: The show is a jukebox musical - which means that the songs in the show are all preexisting and well-known popular music songs, rather than original music. In this case the music is all pop and alternative 90’s hits. With songs originally performed by artists like N*SYNC, Britney Spears, TLC, Boyz II Men, The Goo Goo Dolls, Christina Aguilera, Jewel, Counting Crows, and more, this show must be so much fun to sing. How do you find that these 90’s radio hits compliment the story of the show, and is there a particular song in the show that you most enjoy, even if it is not one that you sing?

Hannah Valdovinos answers: This show IS a jukebox musical… something I have admittedly not been a huge fan of in the past. I feel some jukebox musicals don’t have much thought put into them and rely too heavily on the popularity of whatever music is included; HOWEVER, I do not feel this way about Cruel Intentions. Of course, a huge draw to the show is the ICONIC music that we all have had incredible fun with these past few weeks, but most every song feels almost seamless in its place in our story. Our brilliant director Garret Storms has said many times to me in rehearsal, “these lyrics are your friends”. They support our fast and furious story and leaning into the lyrics and music despite them not being written for the show feels intrinsically right, and I think even allows us to go more in depth into these character’s inner lives than the original Cruel Intentions film. As for my favorite song, I am famously bad at picking favorites especially with so many hits… so I guess you’ll just have to come hear them for yourself - See you there!

My Guilty Pleasure: 90's Fashion

Hello darlings, it's Kathryn Mertueil here, and today we're talking about 90's fashion trends. Now, as a society we've come a long way since the days of scrunchies and platform shoes, but I must confess, there are a few 90's trends that I can't help but love. I do hope to be seeing plenty of you sporting these looks during the run of our show at Stage West, especially on opening night May 6.

Let's start with the iconic grunge look. Who could resist the appeal of ripped jeans and oversized flannel shirts? It was the perfect mix of rebellious and effortless, and it made us all feel like we could take on the world. Of course, being the fashion icon that I am, I had to put my own spin on the grunge trend. I paired my ripped jeans with a tailored blazer and heels, creating a look that was both edgy and sophisticated.

Then there were the crop tops. Oh, how I adored them! They were the perfect way to show off a toned midriff, and they paired perfectly with a mini skirt. I wore them to countless parties, always ensuring that I was the center of attention.

Of course, we can't forget about the ubiquitous denim everything. Denim jackets, denim skirts, denim was all about denim. And let's not forget about the classic mom jeans. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical about this trend at first, but after trying on a pair, I was hooked. They were so comfortable and chic, and they made my legs look miles long.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Kathryn Mertueil, fashion icon and socialite, can't possibly be a fan of the tracksuit trend. But hear me out. There were times when I just didn't feel like dressing up, and the tracksuit was the perfect solution. I wore mine with a pair of statement sunglasses and a designer handbag, and suddenly I was the picture of athleisure chic.

And finally, we have the fanny pack. Yes, I know it's a controversial trend, but I can't help but love it. It's so practical and convenient, and it adds a touch of nostalgia to any outfit. I wore mine with a simple slip dress and combat boots, creating a look that was both effortless and stylish.

So there you have it, my guilty pleasure: 90's fashion. It may not be the most sophisticated era of style, but there's no denying that it was fun and daring. Who knows, maybe in a few years we'll look back on our current trends with the same fondness. Until then, I'll be rocking my crop tops and mom jeans with pride. Thank you to Asst. Costume Designer Carly Hinson for the image boards.