Drug addiction. Sexual assault. Bisexual identity. Marriage issues. Being a woman of color adopted into a white family. If you’re thinking that these topics would fit into one Lifetime original movie with 90’s rock tunes, then think again. These issues are at the center of Jagged Little Pill, the bold, enriching and exciting new Broadway musical that’s just settled down at the Broadhurst Theatre for a hopeful long run. Inspired by Alanis Morissette’s album of the same name and featuring all of its songs and a few more from Morissette’s other past work and two new songs added for this production, this new work focuses on a picture-perfect family who, sadly, are experiencing many flaws that are tearing them apart.
The Healys are a clear-cut Connecticut family with mom Mary Jane (Elizabeth Stanley) taking care of the household and recovering from a car accident. Her husband Steve (Sean Allen Krill) who secretly watches porn when he’s taking a break from his job as a lawyer. Her black adopted child, Frankie (newcomer Celia Rose Gooding) has a secret relationship with her best friend, Jo (Lauren Pattern) and her biological child, Nick (Derek Klena) sets his sights on being accepted into Princeton.
But soon, events happen that affect the family’s lives. Mary Jane gets addicted to pills that she was taking to recover from the car accident. This causes her to end up in the hospital. Frankie sets her sights on classmate Phoenix (Antonio Ciprino), which makes her reevaluate her sexuality. Worse, Nick suddenly gets involved in a case of sexual assault with one of Frankie’s friends, Bella (Kathryn Gallagher).
Director Diane Paulus (Waitress, the revivals of Pippin and Hair), first-time Broadway librettist and Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno), music supervisor and Tony winner Tom Kitt (Next to Normal and The SpongeBob Musical) and Morissette herself along with her collaborators Glen Ballard, Michael Farrell and Guy Sigsworth must all be applauded along with the rest of the creative team and the cast for the superb work that they put on here. Paulus directs this production with a stunning edge here and Cody transplants her witty style of dialogue from the screen to the stage here very well (An example of this: “There’s only happy families in Orange Juice commercials and Utah.”). Kitt, Morissette and her team has put together what I believe to be one of the most thrilling scores that I ever heard on a Broadway stage in years, even if it debuted on an album 24 years ago. A bonus thanks must go to choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who helped make the show’s ensemble express the inner emotions of the main characters through dance.
Gooding (daughter to Tony-winning actress LaChanze) has a standout debut performance as a daughter who’s discovering her sexual identity and who she really is. Pattern gets a well-deserved standing ovation from the Broadhurst audience as she rocks the house with a rocking rendition of “You Oughta Know”. There’s also solid work from Klena, Krill, Ciprino and Gallagher (who’s father is actor Peter Gallagher). But the performance that’s sure to be talked-about come Tony Award time next spring is Stanley. As she plays a mom who’s can’t control herself with her drug addiction while trying to fix the problems surrounding her family and facing a dark past, Stanley gives a powerful portrayal that is worth seeing.
A worthy cousin to Dear Evan Hansen, Next to Normal and Spring Awakening, this new musical will both amaze you and will make you think about the human situations that surrounds this nation and the planet that we’re living in. In short, it’s a perfect wake-up call to the world.
The Buzz on Jagged Little Pill:
Quick Words: A bold, enriching and exciting new musical. You don’t have to be an Alanis Morissette fan to love it.
Recommended Best for: Ages 16 and up. Contains adult language, adult themes, drug use, sexual situations and moments of sexual violence that may upset some in the audience.
Playing At: The Broadhurst Theatre on 235 West 44th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue) for an open-ended run. For tickets, go to telecharge.com, todaytix.com/x/nyc or call 212-239-6200