Uptown Players and Stage West collab for some Cruel Intentions
RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer
The ’90s have returned to Stage West and will be returning to Uptown Players soon. Both theaters have collaborated to produce Cruel Intentions the ’90s Musical, currently at Stage West in Fort Worth. Based on the film and complete with musical hits of the decade, the show is helping both theaters bring grunge, flip phones and boy bands back in style.
The show had been in Stage West’s plans since 2019. But then a pandemic got in the way. Plus, musicals are a bit new for Stage West, according to Director and SW Associate Producer Garret Storms. So when the time came to stage the show, they reached out for some help.
“Musicals are expensive,” Storms said by phone. “The arts took such a hit during the pandemic, so we were trying to be mindful and responsible with resources and costs. So we looked for a partner in this one.”
Stage West isn’t new to collaborations; the company worked with WaterTower Theatre for The Play That Goes Wrong earlier this season. Teaming up with Uptown, though, was a new experience.
“It felt like an opportunity, and musicals are bread and butter for them,” Storms said. “I believe it’s their first co-production. They know how to do musicals, and we’re dipping our toe into that, and it’s all been a wonderful experience.”
The show closes this weekend in Fort Worth, then Storms and the cast and crew move over to the Kalita Humphreys Theater to open on June 1. The show remains the same — except for a few tweaks. But the vibes will, of course, still be all ’90s.
“We’ll have to make some adjustments but mostly some sightline and staging stuff. The way the show was staged and designed was with the knowledge that it would have to work in both spaces, but the integrity of the show stays the same,” Storms said.
The movie came out in 1999, almost 25 years ago. Storms said he remembers seeing the film as a preteen, renting it from Blockbuster.
“It felt so dangerous because I was watching it alone, and I was a good kid,” Storms said. “It was rated R, and I was afraid my parents could come in.
But I was so taken with it. It’s so unapologetically itself.”
So when taking on the musical production, Storms already knew what he wanted the show to feel like.
Like the film, the musical centers on Sebastian (Ethan Massengale) and Kathryn (Kathryn Jacobson) who are step-siblings in a one-percenter family.
The teens are preparing for their first day at a prestigious high school. For fun, they make wagers involving people that will likely ruin their lives through sex, gossip and plotting.
Their primary targets are the virgin transfer student Annette (Hannah Valdovinos) and headmaster’s daughter Cecile (Logan Graye), whose beau Court (Garrett Caelan Weir) dumped Kathryn.
Sebastian attempts to seduce Annette, who published an article about waiting for sex, while Kathryn seeks to ruin Cecile’s also-virginal reputation. The wager is Sebastian gives Kathryn his vintage Jaguar if Kathryn wins, If Kathryn loses, she has sex with Sebastian.
“For all intents and purposes, the musical is the movie and achieves that similar brazen attitude. And I feel the writers really did the work in choosing the songs. The lyrics really do work and bring a new dynamic to the story,” Storms said.
The story is based on the epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) from the 1700s. Storms examined his show and found how the original story is still so viable today.
“The story and even subsequent adaptations precede some societal reckoning or friction, so it made me think about what we are trying to learn when it comes out,” he explained. “But also, this production really satisfies our nostalgia with campy fun.”