Alanis Morisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” opened this week for a three week run at the Pantages Theatre. The opening night crowd was full of those of us who sang every word to this album at the top of our lungs as we drove to our jobs, interviews, dates and obligations in the nineties, along with younger generations newly turned onto Alanis or about to discover her.
The show does not disappoint. For me, it reminded me just how iconic this album was and is and how much it played a part in the soundtrack of our lives. What is incredible here is that writer, Diablo Cody, has managed to write a show and create a story that weaves through these amazing songs and anthems and makes it feel like they were written specifically for this story and these characters.
It’s quite a feat. This genre of show is usually called a “jukebox musical” because you are taking songs that already exist and putting them in a show. But many of those shows use the songs as performance pieces. What I find fascinating here is that the Morisette songs actually become part of the dialogue and move the story along to great effect.
It’s a story of a modern, American family; a father who works too much, a mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a seemingly perfect “golden boy” son, and a beautiful, adopted African American daughter living in an upscale, white suburban neighborhood. There are a few storylines including adopted daughter, Frankie, involved in a love triangle with her high school girlfriend and a new boy in town and the sexual assault by son Nick’s best friend and each family member’s reaction to it.
But the main story belongs to mom, Mary Jane (MJ), and how her perfectionism and recent back surgery has led to a dangerous opioid addiction. It’s an addiction hiding a secret trauma and one that is alienating her from her husband and children. All roads lead to a collision that shatter the family wide open.
The cast is steller with the luminous Heidi Blickenstaff blowing the roof off with her heartpounding, gut-wrenching portrayal of MJ. Her voice is worth the ticket price alone and when she has a duet with her doppelganger dancer as she overdoses, it is transcendent. That moment, along with all the choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, pulsates and pushes the story along, beautifully incorporated into the exciting Diane Paulus staging.
Lauren Chanel as Frankie has a great voice and the right combination of teenage angst and yearning. Dillon Klena is an earnest and tortured Harvard bound son, Nick and Rishi Golani brings sweet vocals and delightful chemistry as the third member of the love triangle. It’s incredible to see the vulnerability of Morisette’s lyrics sung with such emotion by Chris Hoch as husband/dad, Steve. And Jade McLeod brings the house down as Jo, the scorned girlfriend singing Morisette’s most famous anthem “You Oughta Know”.
The music obviously rocks and while it is iconic, it feels different and fresh with the Tom Kitt arrangements, the new harmonies sung by multiple characters at once and as I said before, just the way they are so seamlessly interwoven into the story – it truly is a discovery of it in a whole new way.
It just works. Whether you’re like me, finding yourself weeping at the nineties nostalgia from the first note of the first song, or you resonate with the raw honesty of the characters and what they go through, or thrill at the sheer rock and roll of it all, “Jagged Little Pill” takes you on a journey and may even, as music often has the power to do – heal what’s ailing you.
“Jagged Little Pill” runs through October 2, 2022 at Hollywood Pantages Theatre located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd | Los Angeles, CA 90028 Performance Schedule: Tuesday – Friday at 8pm Saturday at 2pm & 8pm Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm. Tickets start at $39. Parental Advisory: Children ages 14 and up. BroadwayInHollywood.com or Ticketmaster.com Phone: 1-800-982-2787 In Person: Hollywood Pantages Theatre Box Office Visit website for current box office hours.