How does one successfully fill the shoes of a '90s cinematic sex symbol? The answer: Don’t. Simply make it your own and that’s exactly what actor Jeffrey Kringer has done with the iconic role of ‘Sebastian’ in Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical
Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical is a story that follows the calculated deception, unexpected romance and ultimate tragedy of a group of privileged prep school students.
With ‘Sebastian’ originally played by actor Ryan Phillippe in the 1999 hit film of the same name, one cannot deny the striking resemblance between Jeffrey Kringer and Ryan Philippe, an observation unknown to Jeffrey when he first auditioned for the role.
He shares exclusively with Candid, “I really didn’t know about it [Cruel Intentions] until I was called back. I watched the movie before my callback appointment. I remember I was facetiming my girlfriend and I turned to her and said, Wow! I kind of look like that guy. And by the end of the movie, I was saying, I really want to play this part.”
So, why see the stage show on tour and not just rent the movie?
Because even though a large part of the musical’s dialogue is nearly verbatim to the film’s screenplay (in a most charming, nostalgic way), Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical transports its audiences more than twenty years back to songs you didn’t even think you still knew the words to.
When it pertains to the music performances on stage, Jeffrey says, “We have Christina Aguilera, NSYNC, Britney. These are all artists and songs that so many people just know to the core of their soul. So, to see them being sprinkled throughout the stories of Cruel Intentions that moves the plot forward, that just creates this incredible energy in the room. People who really start to feel like they are more at a rock concert than they are at a piece of theatre.”
When asked if he felt the pressure to play ‘Sebastian’ the same way Ryan so memorably did, or has his stage show encouraged him to find his own special voice for the lead ensemble character, Jeffrey says, “I have to go with the latter, to be honest.
“Our production team and our directors established a great dialogue with us about staying true to the idea and the icon that is the film. Nodding to the off-Broadway production, while also creating this touring production to be something uniquely its own. So no, I never felt pressure to endear to the way Ryan took the character or Constantine (who played ‘Sebastian’ during the original stage production) took the character. Sebastian speaks to me in a way that’s personal to me.”
Confidence and ego
Not all scenes from the film make it onto the stage, adding new scenes in their place that dive deeper between the relationships of the supporting characters within this small, hardworking ensemble.
One of the film’s most risqué scenes, however, not only makes it to the stage but has become quite the crowd-pleasing theatrical moment.
During a pool scene, ‘Sebastian’ reveals his entire nude backside. It's a scene within Jeffrey’s role that initially caught him by surprise, but now fully embraces its significance.
“I think it is an important moment in Sebastian’s story as far as conveying his ridiculous amount of confidence and using his ego to kind of spark interest in other people.
“Whether it’s confidence in his body or words, he uses them so expertly and it really makes you just question everything you think is right and wrong. I think it has helped me kind of achieve a level of confidence in myself and there are little pieces of Sebastian I hold on to. It was something I was excited to convey on-stage; someone who is completely and utterly confident, until he realises he is being confident for all the wrong reasons later in the show.”
Coming to the UK
With Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical rounding out its first US national tour in Philadelphia, the show already has plans to head overseas later this summer at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the UK.
As Jeffrey soon takes his potentially final bow as ‘Sebastian’, Jeffrey wraps up our Candid conversation with a special message for the audiences that have been a part of his journey these last few months. “Thank you for making me feel like this breakout role was something that’s going to positively impact my career forever. That’s really important to me. Whether you’ve waited outside a stage door just to say hi or shot me a message on Instagram saying that I have a nice ass, I just see all of that as people who are supporting the theatrical machine and are allowing themselves to be affected by it, one way or another.”
For more on Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical, visit cruelmusical.com
Read Jeff Conway’s interview with Colby Strong in Film & Entertainment.
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