When Alanis Morissette released the album Jagged Little Pill in 1995, her deeply personal lyrics touched a raw never with millions of people around the world and catapulted Alanis into super stardom over night. With her ninth album due next year and an extensive 25th anniversary tour planned, there is just time to open Jagged Little Pill the Musical on Broadway, written by Academy Award winner Diablo Cody and directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus.
On the face of it, the Healey’s are the perfect American family. But behind closed doors there are marital issues, sexual identity confusion, drug addiction and a pressure to live up to family expectations of achievement.
The story touches on many different aspects of life and perhaps needs to be five hours long to cover each storyline well enough. I felt topics like rape were slightly glazed over in order to make way for cramming in as many hard hitting issues as possible, when I would have loved to go more in-depth about what happened and why. Also, scenes that could have had a real hard-hitting emotional impact felt rushed and didn’t have the effect they could have.
Alanis was keen for the musical not to be a jukebox show about her life, but a well crafted story around the songs which is mostly achieved well. Lyrics have been changed to fit and most songs haven’t been used just for the sake of it. Several other Alanis songs like Thank You and Uninvited are also included as well as different albums tracks and even a b-side plus two new songs ‘Smiling’ and ‘Predator’. Sadly, the great placement and interweaving of songs into the story was ruined slightly by trying to make ‘Ironic’ work within the story. Perhaps that was the ironic thing about its inclusion but I would have rather seen it saved for the curtain call as it cheapened the storyline a little.
The Broadway show has been in previews for a month and so I was surprised to see some sloppy scene changes. Also, the prop placement seemed un-thought-out, with Mary Jane seeming to have a Mary Poppins style bag behind the pillow on the sofa, pulling out glasses of wine and then putting them back. Perhaps a table could have been used. Also, I started to feel dizzy with the amount of set pieces being constantly spun around and wheeled on and off stage. It all felt very low budget.
The casting of young talent was great with Derek Klena (Nick) and Kathryn Gallagher (Bella) shining above the rest. Elizabeth Stanley and Sean Allan Krill did a good job as the concerned parents battling their own issues and Celia Rose Gooding and Lauren Pattern gave feisty performances (with Pattern’s incredible rendition of You Oughta Know getting a well deserved standing ovation). I can’t not mention Antonio Cipriano (Phoenix) who brought life and joyfulness to the stage in his performance.
Jagged Little Pill the Musical has a life on Broadway but I worry it wouldn’t work for London audiences. It would need a lot of rewrites to take out the American references which could fall flat in the UK.
As someone who has followed Alanis Morissette‘s career for the last twenty five years, seen her live on every tour and even has an embarrassing tattoo to prove it, I loved every second of this show. But as an honest theatre review, putting my personal feelings for the music aside, it didn’t feel quite ready – despite it being worked on for the last seven years.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Evgenia Eliseeva
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