Review: ALANIS MORISSETTE'S JAGGED LITTLE PILL Will Leave You Breathless At Straz Center


By: May. 17, 2023
Review: ALANIS MORISSETTE'S JAGGED LITTLE PILL Will Leave You Breathless At Straz Center
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Jagged Little Pill, is the latest "Jukebox Musical," in a rather long line of "Jukebox Musicals," to make it on Broadway and then tour in recent years. With music by Alanis Morissette, book by Diablo Cody, and additional music by Michael Farrell and Guy Sigsworth, the show traverses the iconic landscape of songs represented on Morissette's 1995 album of the same name, and touches on topics of pain, healing, and empowerment.

Jagged Little Pill premiered at The American Repertory Theatre in Massachusetts on May 5, 2018, and was directed by Diane Paulus. It began previews on Broadway in November of 2019 and had an official opening on December 5 of that same year. The show did end up closing on December 17, 2021 due to the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The 74th Annual Tony Awards provided Jagged Little Pill with 15 nominations, making it the most nominated show of its season, and the show took home two of those awards (Best Book of a Musical/Best Performance Featured Actress). It also received the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album.

The show had a reading prior to its previews in 2017 with Idina Menzel assuming the role of Mary Jane Healy. Of the songs making up the musical, Morissette also included songs from other albums in addition to the Jagged Little Pill song cycle. Of the songs added were, "Thank You," "That Would be Good," and "So Pure" from her 1998 album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. "So Unsexy," and "Hands Clean," from her 2002 album Under Rug Swept, "Unprodigal Daughter" from her 2002 album Feast on Scraps, "No" from the Japanese edition of 2012's Havoc and Bright Lights. Finally adding "Uninvited" from the soundtrack to the 1998 film City of Angels. Alanis wrote two brand new songs for the musical, "Smiling," and "Predator" from her ninth studio album Such Pretty Forks in the Road.

Bear with me as there is a lot to unpack here. This is not your average Jukebox Musical.

Jagged Little Pill is set in Connecticut, and tells the story of the Healy family. Mary Jane is seen writing the yearly family Christmas letter. Besides discussing her husbands job, and her kids accomplishments, she also explains that she was involved in a car crash, but is healing due to using natural remedies.

Hiding under the happy facade is everything in which Mary Jane chooses not to disclose. Her husband's addiction to pornography, Frankie is making out with her best friend and confused about her sexuality, and she herself (MJ) is addicted to the pain killers from the accident.

All the while MJ is trying to keep Nick on the straight and narrow to maintain the family's image. While trying to get painkillers from the pharmacy and to no avail, MJ meets a dealer and he gives her opioids. Frankie meets a new student in Phoenix and a romantic attraction evolves. Nick is struggling to come to grips with always having to be the perfect one, especially after his mother tells him, that he is the only thing she managed to get right.

During a party, Bella, a friend of Nick's is raped while unconscious and pictures begin circulating around the school. MJ after hearing about all the events from the party, ultimately blames Bella, but then realizes, she too met the same fate.

Frankie runs away to New York, after an unfortunate/interrupted encounter with Phoenix.

After Frankie runs away, Nick comes clean that he witnessed the rape happening and did nothing. Under all the stress of everything, MJ overdoses on pills at home. Nick finally goes to the police.

Towards the close of the events of the show, a year has passed, and MJ is once again seen writing the family Christmas letter. MJ comes clean on all the events in their lives and on a dare emails everyone, coming to terms that this will be her final Christmas letter. As everyone mends their relationships for the better.

Set to the backdrop of a repertoire of iconic music that defined a generation, Jagged Little Pill went straight for the heart, and pulled on every emotion from start to finish.

The stellar ensemble leading our story is every bit as extraordinary as the story they are telling.

From top to bottom not a weak link can be found.

As Mary Jane (MJ) Healy, Heidi Blickenstaff is a marvel. Her commanding stage presence is felt from the opening Christmas letter, to the cathartic journey her character takes, to the final note sung. She takes you on a breathless journey that can only be described as no holds barred. Her vocals are top notch, and the moment of the overdose will leave you speechless.

As Steve Healy, Chris Hoch is the perfect overworked father. The empathy in his character especially in "Mary Jane," is truly outstanding. You feel for his plight and the desire to provide for his family, and he should be commended for a truly exceptional turn.

As Nick Healy, Dillon Klena is perfection. You feel for his struggle to always be perfect, even when everything is against him. His solo "Perfect," is a vocal stunner. I will say that while vocally outstanding, I felt his moments of empathy were lost here. Unsure if its a character choice, or Director's choice but nonetheless Dillon's performance is one I will remember for some time.

In as Frankie Healy for the performance was the enigmatic Jordan Leigh McCaskill. Her voice reached new heights in every moment, and her plight was a truly powerful journey. She takes your breath away even in the softest of moments. She is an undeniable star.

As Jo, Jade McLeod displays stunning vocal power even in times of tenderness. "Hand in My Pocket," and "You Oughta Know," are exceptional moments. Jade delivers while wearing her heart on her sleeve. You feel for her relationship with Frankie and the journey she takes. Her presence on stage is unmatched here.

As Bella, Allison Sheppard was wonderful. Delivering a sobering and truly moving performance, Allison should be commended. Her performances of "No," and "Predator" were standout moments of the night.

Rishi Golani was a great addition as Phoenix and provided much comic relief. The moment where he doesn't say I love you back to Frankie is truly heartbreaking. His vocals and stage presence makes for a truly outstanding performance.

Rounding out the company of Jagged Little Pill, Jordan Quisno (Andrew), Elaine Watson (Pharmacist/Therapist), Carmella Taitt (Barista), Bligh Voth (Jill/Teacher), Delaney Brown (Denise), Jena VanElslander (Courtney), Daniel Thimm (Drug Dealer), Lee H. Alexander (Doctor), and Justin Scott Brown, Cydney Kutcipal, Alana Pollard, and Kei Tsuruharatani (Chorus), all deserve accolades and commending for a truly breathtaking performance, telling an undeniably real story that will affect all those who witness its power.

From a technical standpoint, Jagged Little Pill stands out in the crowd. From sleek and unique staging/set design by Riccardo Hernandez that allows the movement from place to place seamlessly in all transitions. To the mood evoking lighting design by Justin Townsend, allowing the audience to escape into the world in which these characters reside. To the beautiful costume design by Emily Rebholz that helps each character's personality shine through. J. Jared Jana's hair/makeup and wig design gives each character life on stage. Lucy Mackinnon's video design works effortlessly with the scenic design to keep us in place for each moment of the show. Jonathan Dean's flawless sound design helps to create the world of these characters. The outstanding movement direction and choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui delivers stunning moments that capture your breath, your heart, and all your emotion until it explodes in every facet of the story of these characters. You literally breathe, feel, and emote right along with the characters, and for this reason, this show will change you for the better. Under the exceptional keen Direction by Diane Paulus this emotional roller-coaster is a breathtaking journey.

Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill does one thing no other Jukebox Musical has done before, it bursts off the stage, grabs you by the heart and pulls you deep diving into the hearts of these characters and the stories they tell. This show will break you, it will move you, and ultimately teach you about the betterment of humanity.

Tickets can be purchased by calling the Straz Center's ticket office or by visiting the website at

"Thank you, clarity...

You pray, you learn...

Thank you, consequence...

You ask, you learn...

Thank you, thank you silence...


PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Murphy


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