A woman in a black suit with a red lace teddy visible underneath crouches in a dance position center. On the left, a young woman in a school uniform leaps in the air. A young man sits on a bed behind them, while another young man jumps in the air on the right.
Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical at Kokandy Productions Credit: Evan Hanover

We all remember where we were when we saw Cruel Intentions. Its iconic soundtrack (anyone else melt to Counting Crows’ “Colorblind”?) and “shameless perversity” (thank you, Buzzfeed, for this spot-on description) have become canon in many a millennial’s coming of age and sexual maturity. Directed by Adrian Abel Azevedo, Kokandy Productions’s Chicago storefront premiere of the 1999 movie’s jukebox musical adaptation is an incredibly fun nostalgia trip that still feels at turns shocking, twisted, and touching in all the right, confusing ways. You love to hate every character, especially Kathryn (Maddison Denault) and Sebastian (David Moreland), whose stepsibling sexual tension and moral bankruptcy wreak havoc on all in their wake. The plot, based on the 1782 French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos: an X-rated bet that Sebastian bed the new headmaster’s daughter before the school year begins. 

Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical
Through 8/21: Thu-Sat 7 PM, Sun 5 PM; Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, kokandyproductions.com, $40 (students/seniors $30)

That the story is told with limited dialogue and mainly lyrics of your favorite 90s songs is a pleasing foil to its chaotic pacing and some problematic/dated plot points (some suspension of disbelief required here). Scenes with the film’s classics “Colorblind” and “Bitter Sweet Symphony” do not disappoint, with choreographer Laura Savage making the relatively small space feel layered and alive with energy. The entire cast impresses with their vocal performances, delivery of compelling camp, and ability to create an intimacy that verges just close enough to voyeuristic. Anabella Oddo stands out as Cecile (Selma Blair in the movie), using her vocal chops and charming physical comedy to give the “annoying” character depth, growth, and surprising power.