Review: 'Jagged Little Pill' Electrifies on National Tour
Will Demers READ TIME: 2 MIN.
Released in the Summer of 1995, a certain album would become the best international debut in history; reaching 33 million copies worldwide. Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" took the music industry by storm, and over 25 years later it continues to be a bestseller, with her subsequent 9 albums released afterwards garnering her 7 Grammy awards. With such recognizable music and such unprecedented sales, eventually someone would approach Morissette to craft a jukebox musical.
The resulting show, which shares the album's title, premiered at Cambridge's American Repertory Theater in 2018 under the direction of the company's artistic director Diane Paulus. The show was an immediate sensation, selling out and extending its Cambridge run. It opened on Broadway the following year where it received 11 Tony Awards – the most of any show that year, winning two. It closed in December 2021 due to COVID, but continues in its current national tour that runs through August. For more information on the tour, follow this link.
But what would the themes to such a stage adaptation be? Morissette's lyrics were the starting point, and a song called "Mary Jane" (also from the debut album) would be the template for its protagonist, and her family. While taking such emotion-rich songs and pasting them onto a story doesn't always work in the musical theater realm, here the numbers virtually soar thanks to an outstanding cast headed by Heidi Blickenstaff (Mary Jane Healy) with Chris Hoch as her husband Steve. As superstar son Nick, Dillon Klena more than fills the role, and Lauren Chanel inspires as Frankie Healy, the adopted daughter.
Rounding out the main cast is Jade McLeod as Jo, whose voice is the closest to Morissette's in delivery (check out her "You Oughta Know" which nearly stops the show) and Alison Shepard as Bella, a girl who becomes a huge part of the second act and she's incredibly powerful here.
Paulus, who won a Tony for "Pippin," helms this explosive work, with intricate and wondrous choreography by Tony-nominee Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Diablo Cody ("Tully," "Juno") is responsible for this original story. And the band, which is onstage during the performances is supervised by Tom Kitt ("Next to Normal," "American Idiot"), giving a raw emotional edge to this iconic music.
Hoch is perfectly cast as the husband who works perhaps a bit too much in the pursuit of success for himself and his family, and Blickenstaff is incredible as Mary Jane, who inhabits the Connecticut housewife everyone perceives as a "supermom." When her character starts to go off the rails ("Uninvited," "Smiling") you'll not believe how powerful these performances can be. They're at the heart of this story which explores some themes that are most definitely a mirror of modern families and our society. Never have Morissette's songs been paired with such an intense story, but you'll be left truly wanting more of this "Pill."
"Jagged Little Pill" ran through January 22nd at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) 220 Weybosset Street, Providence RI 02903. For information or tickets call 401-421-2787 or visit www.ppacri.org.
For more information on the tour, follow this link.