Jagged Little Pill faces relevant social issues set to an iconic Alanis Morissette album

-Brenda Hillegas
photo by Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Jagged Little Pill is on tour and at the Kimmel Cultural Campus Academy of Music through January 15th. Based on Alanis Morissettes’s 1995 album, Jagged Little Pill– winner of five Grammy Awards including Album of the Year and considered one of the the 500 greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine– the musical is a must for any fan of Alanis or Broadway. The stage adaptation is filled with gold stars too- a book by Diablo Cody (Juno), orchestration and arrangements by Tom Kitt (If/Then, Next to Normal, American Idiot), and directed by Diane Paulus (Pippin, 1776). The musical won two Tony Awards (with 15 nominations!) and the Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album.

So, in short- go see Jagged Little Pill!

Unlike some other jukebox musicals I’ve seen recently, this one is more on the heavy side. It’s honest, but not lighthearted (though I promise there are some funny scenes to break up the deep content), so prepare for real and relevant topics. It’s not a family show, but it is about family and the necessary support system that we all need. Jagged Little Pill centers on the Healy family. Mom, Mary Jane (Heidi Blickenstaff reprises her role from the Broadway production) is struggling with trying to be a maintain the image of a perfect family while hiding an addiction to pain killers. Her husband, Steve (Chris Hoch), works long hours, is never around, and loves to watch pornography. Their daughter Frankie (Lauren Chanel) is a teenager trying to find herself; she’s Black and adopted into a white family, she is bisexual, and she is adamant about standing up for what’s right at all times. Son Nick (Dillon Klena) just got accepted to Harvard, but is facing a situation that could risk his future – a situation his mom also had to face and is now finding ways to heal. Frankie’s best friend, Jo (Jade McLeod), is also a huge part of the story and is coping with their mother’s inability to accept them being gay.

Similar to more recent musicals like Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls, Jagged Little Pill also highlight the lives of high schoolers and the social issues they face in modern times. What’s unique about this show, though, is that we also see how their lives effect the parents and their relationships with one another. The musical is a bit overloaded with topics- drug abuse, sexual violence, fitting in, coming out, teen sex, and racism, but it’s all a representation of real life at the moment. Aren’t we all biting off more than we can chew at times? (Yeah, I see what I did there).

Heidi Blickenstaff is especially excellent and “Forgiven”, sung with the cast, was a highlight of the show. Another standout performance is Jade McLeod as Jo. They carry favorite hits like “Hand in My Pocket” and “You Oughta Know” so incredibly well. There’s a lot of big rock numbers with the company and choreography, but also sincere orchestration on more somber songs to move along the plot.

Jagged Little Pill‘s story wraps with “You Learn”, a powerful ending song for the story that unfolded on stage and reminder for us ’90s kids that the songs we grew up with can still resonate with our world today. Kudos to musical’s creative team for building a meaningful story around this iconic album.

Jagged Little Pill the musical tickets are available here.

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