By Denny Patterson
Cruel Intentions: The ‘90s Musical Experience will be making an appearance at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts on Sunday, May 19, 2019 for a one night only engagement. Based on the French novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and the classic cult film starring Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe, and Sarah Michelle Gellar, Cruel Intentions pulls viewers into the manipulative world of step-siblings Sebastian and Kathryn. Soulless and vindictive, these two spoiled rich kids have an insatiable appetite for sex and ruining people’s lives. Place a bet on whether or not Sebastian can deflower their incoming headmaster’s daughter, Annette Hargrove, the two set out to destroy the innocent girl and anyone who gets in their way. I had the pleasure of chatting with John Battagliese who plays Greg McConnell. A Philadelphia native, he is excited to hit the road for his first national tour. Some of his other theatre credits include Link Larkin in Hairspray, St. Jimmy in American Idiot, and Romeo in BAZ: Star Crossed Love, a musical version of Baz Luhrmann’s films with music from Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet, and The Great Gatsby. This show had a residency at the Palazzo Theatre in Las Vegas.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, John. Let me start off by asking, where did your passion for acting come from?
One of my earliest memories was seeing a production of Grease in Philadelphia starring Frankie Avalon as the Teen Angel. Aside from being a national celebrity, he was a bit of a hometown hero. He walked on stage and immediately received entrance applause and a standing ovation. I turned to my parents and said, “I want to do that!”
Do you remember the moment when you decided you were going to pursue this as a career?
I truthfully do not remember a time that I made the decision. I was telling people that I wanted to be an actor from as early as fifth grade.
Why did you want to try out for Cruel Intentions?
I had friends involved with the earlier productions and had been wanting to see it, but my schedule never lined up. Last winter, I finally got to see it in NYC and completely fell in love with the show. I knew then I had to be involved in some way.
You are playing closeted jock Greg McConnell. How would you say you relate to your character?
Well, unlike Greg, I am definitely no superstar on the field, but I absolutely understand the pressure that comes with living that sort of double life. High school and the years surrounding it are difficult for everyone. Add on the fact that you have this huge secret weighing you down, it can become daunting. I think everyone can relate to a character like Greg because whether you are grappling with coming out, like I was, or you have some other secret within you that no one knows yet, there is this huge fear of the unknown that comes with revealing and ultimately becoming your true self.
What are you looking forward to the most about performing in Cruel Intentions?
I am really excited about the cast we have, they are so talented and hilarious. I am obsessed with the music – we get to sing all the songs I would belt out in the car growing up. Only now they are for an actual audience and not just my mom!
What can audiences expect from this show?
Audiences who are familiar with the film will definitely get their fill of all their favorite movie moments, but I think new and old Cruel fans will leave shocked at the emotional chord the show may strike. There is a sort of magic that the musical numbers spark once integrated into this iconic script.
What do you personally hope to take away from this experience?
I really hope to become better at packing! I am obsessed with clothes and living out of a suitcase will be quite a challenge for me. Stay tuned to see how many pairs of shoes I buy on the road!
Every theatrical production is a learning experience in some way. What has Cruel Intentions taught you?
I have never understudied a role before and on this tour I am covering Sebastian, so that has been a huge workout for my brain! It has been a great challenge to not only learn my role, but also make sure I know all that material in case of an emergency.
This show features several favorite throwback hits. Which are some of your favorite songs?
I truly love them all! There are definitely some of my favorites though – the fact that I get to sing “Sometimes” by Britney Spears is an actual childhood dream come to life.
What’s next for you after Cruel Intentions is over? Do you have anything lined up?
I have a few shows that I am involved with that are in development and one in particular I will be doing in the fall that has not yet been announced. I know, such a vague response, but you can follow me @jaybattsby and follow along for all things Cruel Intentions and beyond!