Book cover of “Les Liaisons dangereuses” (1782); movie still from “Cruel Intentions” (1999); and Maddison Denault and David Moreland in the live production of “Cruel Intentions: The ’90 Musical” (2022).
Book cover of “Les Liaisons dangereuses” (1782); movie still from “Cruel Intentions” (1999); and Maddison Denault and David Moreland in the live production of “Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical” (2022). Credit: Photo by Evan Hanover

Which came first? The play, the movie or the book? The answer isnt always obvious as Chicagolands live productions prove.

Kokandy Productions launches its 10th Anniversary Season with the Chicago storefront premiere of Cruel Intentions: The 90s Musical (through Aug. 21) at The Chopin Theatre.

Based on the American movie Cruel Intentions (1999) which is based on the French novel “Les Liaisons dangereuses” (1782) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, the musical features David Moreland in the Ryan Phillippe role of Valmont. Maddison Denault and Kelcy Taylor step into the parts made famous by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Reese Witherspoon, respectively.

The cult film earned Witherspoon a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actress, while Gellar was named Movie Sleazebag by the Teen Choice Awards. Gellar also picked up MTV Movie Awards for Best Female Performance and Best Kiss (shared with Selma Blair).

Created by Jordan Ross, Lindsey Rosin and Roger Kumble, the live show includes direction by Adrian Abel Azevedo, music direction by Isabella Isherwood, choreography by Laura Savage, and 1990s hits by Britney Spears, Garbage, Jewel, and No Doubt.

“We couldn’t be more excited for audiences to celebrate this fun and flirty show with us,” says Producing Artistic Director Derek Van Barham. “Get ready to indulge all your guilty pleasures: being back at the theater, bopping along to ’90s jams and toasting a movie that we’ve seen too many times to count!”

The company will also stage a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winner Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Sep. 8-Nov. 6). “It will be fun to take on another tale of revenge, but this time with a twist on class,” continues Van Barham. “Whereas Cruel Intentions allows the elite to wreak havoc, no one is safe in Sweeney Todd, where those above will serve those down below.”

The titular character originated in Victorian England per serialized publications known as Penny Dreadfuls in 1846. An American version followed in 1852, as did a play in 1865. By 1973, Christopher Bond penned the macabre musical which became a Broadway hit in 1979.

Cinematic versions of the tale date back to 1928 when Britain released the silent film Sweeney Todd. Since then, talkies entitled Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street were directed by George King in 1936 and Tim Burton in 2007. In between, made-for-TV movies by John Schlesinger (1997) and David Moore (2006) were produced in the US and UK, respectively.

Murder on the Orient Express heads into Drury Lane Theatre (Aug. 31-Oct. 23) in Oakbrook Terrace. Like previous movie adaptations, the play is based on Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel of the same name.

Since the popular whodunit features several suspicious characters, directors were able to curate killer casts on film. Sidney Lumet’s 1974 version showcases renowned thespians (Wendy Hiller, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave); sex symbols of the era (Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery); and silver screen icons (Lauren Bacall, and Ingrid Bergman who won an Oscar for her supporting performance in the film).

Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley are featured in the 2017 remake directed by Kenneth Branagh, who plays Hercule Poirot. The Belgian detective is portrayed by Albert Finney in the 1974 film and Larry Yando in the play this summer/fall.

Fans of magic, the eight blockbuster Harry Potter movies and the J.K. Rowling books on which they were based can experience Harry Potter: Magic at Play when it makes its international debut at Chicago’s Water Tower Place on Nov. 11 (tickets go on sale on Aug. 3).

Created by Superfly X and Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment, the first-of-its-kind offering provides 30,000 square feet of interactive games, sensory activations, entertainment, and exhibits representing Rowling’s interconnected universe which includes three Fantastic Beasts films and the award-winning stage-play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

“Over the last few years, Chicago has proven to be the perfect city to debut Superfly X experiences and with Harry Potter: Magic at Play we invite Wizarding World fans to experience the franchise in an all-new, playful way,” explains Stacy Moscatelli, Co-President and Chief Strategy Officer at Superfly X. “Whether they are longtime fans of the Wizarding World, or young fans experiencing this incredible world for the very first time, guests will be able to enjoy a Harry Potter activity filled adventure all their own, as they celebrate Harry’s journey to Hogwarts.”

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.