(DV) Let’s just start with the fact that the cult classic movie Cruel Intentions is now a Broadway musical.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the many other teen/20something films that have received the same treatment: Legally Blonde, Mean Girls, Bring It On. But the campy, bored-Angeleno update to Dangerous Liaisons, which starred Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar and centered on deflowering and outing, actually seems more conducive to opera than Broadway — that is, until some fabulous ’90s hits are thrown in the mix as the show’s score.
Which is all fine with David Wright. Wright plays the villainous Blaine Tuttle, the school’s bitchy queen who manipulates straight boys into sticky situations.
Although Wright, 26, has a lengthy performance resume, Blaine is his first lead role.
“I’m usually hired as a dancer and gymnast, but this also comes full circle for me,” he says. “This has pushed me as a performer with my Hollywood training, and I’m very familiar with the songs. My character sings Britney and some boy band songs that I knew. So I’m loving the show.”
Wright grew up in Los Angeles but is now based in New York City. He came upon the audition fortuitously when a friend recommended him. Wright clearly struck a chord when he sang and danced to Britney Spears’ “Sometimes,” who he declares, with a Marie Kondo flair, sparks joy in him. And it worked.
“It’s such a truly incredible experience — this being the first time I can work with the director to develop the character on my own,” he says. “And then that feeling of going onstage. I think that mental block to step up has been released, and I’m stepping into my moment.”
He wasn’t the intended audience when the movie came out in 1999 — Wright was only 6 at the time. But as happens with cult entertainment, he became familiar with it via osmosis. And when he finally did watch the movie, it triggered something in him: He bluntly admits it was one of the first times he remembers realizing that he was attracted to men.
The ’90s was an interesting time cinematically for queer characters. While there was an influx of representation, characters were often diabolical. Sharon Stone’s Catherine Trammell in Basic Instinct, Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs and Tommy Lee Jones’ Clay Shaw in JFK were perhaps the most culturally significant. But Joshua Jackson’s Blaine resonated with GenXers specifically. And for the musical, Wright explains that subtle differences were made to keep the ’90s feel but in a 2019 vein.
“The creators [Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross] wanted to be careful with everything — and me, too. The [plot of the movie] might be a sore subject, so there were careful adjustments in this time of the #MeToo movement, racism and gay rights,” he says. “It’s still scandalous, but we also have the freedom to be mindful but to make our characters the strongest we can.”
And Wright insists that his Blaine is different than the Blaine of the film. He contrasts his interpretation as being more comfortably out than in the movie. But he’s still the mischievous one.
“He’s still a bad guy, but I bring a sweeter side to him,” Wright says. “He’s made some mistakes, but ironically, he has a happy ending.”
Wright loves Blaine as any actor loves his character … but he also has some conflict. Wright is a bubbly personality who sounds like the friendliest guy.
“I do love him and what I’ve had to go through personally as an actor, but as a person, we would not get along,” he says. “He would not be in my circle of friends.”