Review: Alanis Morissette's JAGGED LITTLE PILL Rocks Van Wezel Center

The Broadway show deals with pain, healing, and most of all empowerments.

By: Mar. 01, 2024
Review: Alanis Morissette's JAGGED LITTLE PILL Rocks Van Wezel Center
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Taking its title from Alanis Morisette’s 1995 album, Jagged Little Pill (which sold 33 million copies and won Grammy’s Album of the Year), the Broadway show deals with pain, healing, and most of all empowerments. Set in Connecticut, a “picture perfect family” is shown from behind the scenes. Each individual family member’s struggles and traumas are addressed with magnificent authenticity. One of my favorite takeaway quotes from this show: “it feels uncomfortable to talk about these things, because it should.” A year in the family’s life is revealed before our eyes and ends with the same scene where the play opened. This full-circle scheme clenched the show and presented how much the entire family had grown through one year’s struggles and growing pains operating with frankness and sincerity.

Jagged Little Pill premiered in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2018, before it moved to The Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway in November 2019. It was shut down because of the pandemic, but it did go on to receive a record breaking 15 Tony nominations, winning Best Book of a Musical and Best Performance by a Featured Actress. Jagged Little Pill also won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album for the 2019-2020 season. The current United States tour opened in September 2022 and has been traveling since.

Jagged Little Pill takes on so many present-day social and political issues and it is thought provoking on many levels. From everyday matters that impact all of us or those we know, including addiction, sexual assault, race, sexism in general… this list does go on, but these are just a slight mention. Pondering the overall message of this show, well there seems to be so much more than even those just mentioned! My favorite subject addressed was the “perfection” that we all strive to exude to the public view of our own private lives. The veneer of this attitude of perfection, and showing everyone else that you have everything together. This is the driving story of the mother, Mary Jane, miserable and driven to the brink of death(literally). The “mother complex”, stressors of life, getting children into the “right” schools, what is right and wrong, if one took the correct Spin-class, etc…. See what I mean? The longer I look at the message of Jagged Little Pill, the more messages come out of it. There is something that will strike at what is close to the heart for every audience member.

Throughout the show, the powerful music of Morisette is used to tell the story of artistic expression, heartache on many levels and more. The band sat on stage, bringing the music further forward, as the band became a part of the story. In one scene, Frankie Healy, weaves the hit “Ironic” into a poetry reading in her English class. Starting and stopping with dialogue, this well-known song is utilized to show the vulnerability of the writer, as well as share the message of this imaginative song.

The main characters shine in the first act and it is not until the second half of the show that the powerhouses that play supporting characters come out like blazing stars. Bella, played by Allison Shepard, singing “Predator”, finally has a voice, as she has been muted all along in a central drive of the show, but not having a voice at all. Jade McLeod, who plays Jo takes over the stage with “You Oughta Know” and the who house was shaken by their astonishing  performance.

This poignant show will not lose its luster and will only grow more as more people see it. I am still shocked at the strength that this tale portrayed and could not recommend it more. The audience was laughing and crying and sometimes both at the same time! You will not sit back and relax, as this story is in your face, but that is a good thing- like the album, it is a bit shocking and loud, but gives one a lot to think about. I have been listening to this album pretty much since I left the theater.