Review: JAGGED LITTLE PILL is 'Perfect' at Broadway Sacramento

Playing Through January 7th

By: Jan. 03, 2024
Review: JAGGED LITTLE PILL is 'Perfect' at Broadway Sacramento

What you oughta know is that Broadway Sacramento is starting off the New Year with a bang. Raw, emotional, and energizing are the words to kick off 2024, as the National tour of Jagged Little Pill, The Musical hits Sacramento this week. It was inspired by Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album of the same name and, like the album, is a Grammy Award-winner. It also won two Tony Awards after its 2019 opening. While the musical uses songs from Morisette’s album, it is not the jukebox musical I was expecting. It features an original book by Diablo Cody that highlights the challenges facing an outwardly perfect suburban family, reminding us all to never judge a book by its cover…or a soccer mom by her minivan.

The story starts with Mary Jane Healy writing her family’s annual Christmas letter. That alone would make her unlikeable, but she continues to aggravate with her domestic perfection. Her son is a successful swimmer who gets into Harvard, her husband is a workaholic lawyer, and her daughter is adopted, giving MJ more bragging rights as the mom to a token person of color.   Her carefully crafted house of cards is about to come down, though, because behind her façade is a woman with deep-rooted trauma who tries to numb her pain with street drugs when her prescriptions run out. She is slowly losing control, as her daughter is experimenting with her sexuality, her son is questioning his integrity, and her husband is insisting on couples counseling. While the Healys, and MJ in particular, are an easy target to make fun of, they face issues that affect everyone, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

The book on its own would be great, but the situations give Morissette’s music new meaning, making the production even more powerful. In “All I Really Want,” the Healy family begs for understanding. They each want to be seen, understood, and, most importantly, heard. Julie Reiber is a compelling Mary Jane, with all of the appropriate trappings of an attractive, successful, and white suburban mom. When she opens her mouth to belt it out, though, she becomes something more. A force of nature, an enigma, and a woman like any other who is dealing with her demons as best as she can. She finds her voice in “Forgiven,” and what a voice it is. Similarly, Jade McLeod’s Jo (MJ’s daughter Frankie’s friend), is wrestling with her own coming-of-age lessons. She is in love with Frankie and is devastated when the feelings aren’t reciprocated in the way she hopes. Her anguish and rage are palpable and refreshing in a phenomenal rendition of “You Oughta Know.” My favorite number of the show is undoubtedly “Uninvited,” where MJ wrestles with the psyche of her younger self. It’s a dance of contradictions, forgiveness, and, eventually, release. Luckily, she gets a second chance to make peace with her ghosts and claim authenticity, even if it is in the form of another Christmas letter.

When I first heard the name, Jagged Little Pill, I thought, “Oh, no. Another musician’s life story.” What I got was something entirely unexpected. This is a prompt to evaluate relationships and what is truly important in life. Hot-button issues like rape, racism, and substance abuse fit into a singular family unit not unlike any of ours, reminding us that tough things happen to everyone. The show also made me reflect upon my own relationships, for I saw some of myself in Mary Jane. Not the oxycodone part, but the push for perfectionism. When her family extended her grace and understanding after her overdose, I questioned if I would grant the same to one of my loved ones. I didn’t like the answer, and that’s something that I am going to work on in the new year. Encouraging people to be their authentic selves and giving love when they make mistakes is something that we all need more of. As Alanis says, “You live, you learn, you love, you learn.”

Jagged Little Pill, The Musical plays at Broadway Sacramento through January 7th. Tickets may be purchased online at BroadwaySacramento.com, by phone at (916) 557-1999, or at the Box Office at 1419 H Street in Sacramento.

Photo credit: Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade




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