Teenagers who flocked to their favorite movie cinema in 1999 to see "Cruel Intentions," won't want to miss the stage production coming to Proctors for one performance Friday at 8 p.m.
The cult-hit that featured Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe, has been tweaked by the movie's director, Roger Kumble, and the stage version, "Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical," does remain true to his film.
"The movie and the musical both deal with scenes of youth empowerment and the discoveries that you make when you're driven by the emotion of youth," said 23-year-old Jeffrey Kringer, who plays 17-year-old high school senior Sebastian Valmont. "There are a lot of decisions to be made and the story is something that's relatable. That will translate to today's young audiences, and at the same time an entire generation who grew up with the film will love it."
"I Saw the Sign," "I'm Only Happy When it Rains," "Bittersweet Symphony," "Sex and Candy," "Sunday Morning" and "So Kiss Me" are among the hits of the 1990s that were in the movie and are reprised in the stage play. The musical made its off-Broadway debut in November of 2017 in Greenwich Village and ran into April of 2018. The plot revolves around step siblings Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuli, who bet each other whether or not Sebastian can seduce the incoming headmaster's daughter, Annette Hargrove.
The movie spawned two more projects in the form of direct-to-video films in "Cruel Intentions 2" in 2001 and "Cruel Intentions 3" in 2004, also written and directed by Kumble. In 2015, NBC had also planned a television series based on the movie but junked the idea early in 2016.
This production has been rehearsing for the last month in New York City and moved to Proctors earlier this week to begin the tech process.
"We had this great rehearsal space near Union Square that fits our needs nicely," said Kringer earlier this month. "We've only been at it a few weeks so things are moving quickly. Proctors is not too far from New York so it's going to be a great space to get all the equipment together and make sure the sound the lighting are OK. Then we do one show at Proctors and we're off to Providence, Rhode Island and then Chicago after that for a couple of weeks."
Kringer, who grew up in Skaneateles southwest of Syracuse, wasn't that familiar with "Cruel Intentions" until he auditioned for the part.
"When I started really looking into it, it looked like a good fit for me," said Kringer, who got a degree in musical theater from SUNY-Fredonia in 2018. "I then watched the movie and I thought, 'this might be a feasible employment opportunity for me.' I was born in 1996 so I was on the young side when the movie came out."
The character of Sebastian, played by Phillippe in the film, is a complex one according to Kringer.
"Sebastian's character is the question, and I think audiences will have to make up their own mind," he said. "Is he a good guy or bad guy? The answer is not black and white. I think my character does have this huge arc, and I find that to be a very special part about the role. I believe that people can change, and that is something I take very seriously. That's the message a lot of Americans want to hear right now. People aren't intriscally good or bad. They're a little of both."
Being a musical theater performer was just about all Kringer wanted to be growing up in central New York.
"My father was my high school drama teacher, and I can remember when I was even younger I'd go to the school theater and watch the high school kids rehearse with him while I was doing my homework," said Kringer. "There was no doubt in my mind what I wanted to do. I always loved performing and I've always been passionate about it."
A friend of the Kringer family just happens to be Schenectady High drama director Leia Depeche, who went to the same high school as Kringer and his siblings. Kringer has been to Schenectady twice in the last year to perform workshops at the Sayles School of Fine Arts at Schenectady High.
"I was able to get up there twice to help Leia as a guest artist," said Kringer. "It's an amazing experience to help out in the role of educator, and it's great to see a high school like the one in Schenectady that has a real commitment to the arts and is receptive to the idea of putting drama into the curriculum. I had a great time when I was up there earlier this winter and Leia is doing an amazing job."
Joining Kringer on the Proctors' stage in "Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical" will be Taylor Pearlstein as Kathryn Merteuill and Betsy Stewart as Annette Hargrove.
'Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical'
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
HOW MUCH: $65-$20
MORE INFO: Visit www.proctors.org or call (518) 346-6204