I remember growing up being a huge fan of Alanis Morissette for her naturally beautiful charm, as well as her raw and honest lyrics. It was an incredible time when rock music reigned, and a young strong female singer-songwriter was killing the game. Her album Jagged Little Pill is hands down one of the best music records of the 90s and almost 27 years (this June) after its release, Jagged Little Pill continues to be one of the best-selling albums of all time. So, I suppose it was inevitable for Morrisette’s music to be made into a musical.
Also titled Jagged Little Pill, the musical with its book by Diablo Cody, music by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, and lyrics by Alanis Morissette, opened the Melbourne leg of its Australian tour this month, just two years after opening on Broadway.
The musical’s prominent narrative follows the Healy family who appear perfect but are far from it. Lead by Natalie Bassingthwaighte as Mary Jane Healey, the main cast consist of Tim Draxl as husband Steve Healey, Emily Nkomo in her theatre debut as Frankie Healy, Liam Head as the son Nick Healy, Maggie McKenna as Frankie’s best friend Jo, Grace Miell as Nick’s childhood friend Bella, and Aydan as Phoenix, Frankie’s classmate.
Bassingthwaighte is a known woman of many talents and in Jagged Little Pill, she effortlessly shines with her commanding stage presence, vulnerability, believable chemistry with her on-stage family, and knocks your socks off with her jaw-dropping strong vocals. I honestly cannot think of anyone else who could have originated the role of Mary Jane in Australia. Draxl is equally as notable with his smooth voice and performance as breadwinner of the family, husband Steve. The coming-of-age stories of characters Frankie, Liam, Jo, Bella, and Phoenix played respectfully by Nkomo, Head, McKenna, Miell and Ayden convincingly and passionately portray extremely captivating and detailed narratives that are equally as important as the adult characters’.
Every main character in Jagged Little Pill has their own struggle, to the point where they all feel very real and relatable, providing the show with its heart and depth.
This musical cleverly highlights topics that we need to be more open about discussing, addressing the pressures of perfection in society, dysfunctional relationships, friendship, family, peer pressure, gender expression and sexuality, addiction, racial ignorance and insensitivity, feminism, activism, and sexual assault. As someone who has gone through many of the events above, on a personal level, this show moved me to tears – in a good way.
It doesn’t matter if you didn’t grow up listening to Alanis Morissette. This brave production is brilliant and well worth throwing money at. Whether you are a family with teenagers, a teacher who is looking for something vibrant yet sneakily educational to bring your high school students on excursion to, a theatre lover, a rock music fan, a live music fan, or if you just want to go out and have a good time at show that will mean something long after you’ve left the theatre.
Of course, if you are an Alanis Morissette fan, all the hits are here including, “You Oughta Know”, “Ironic”, “Head Over Feet”, “Hand In My Pocket”, “Hands Clean”, “Thank U”, “So Pure”, plus hidden gems such as “No”, which was only a bonus track on the Japanese release of Morissette’s eighth studio album Havoc and Bright Lights, and “Uninvited” from the 1998 film soundtrack of City of Angels. Morissette also penned two new songs especially for the musical, “Smiling” and “Predator”, both of which sit well alongside her more known songs.
Even though majority of the music in Jagged Little Pill existed as rock songs prior, you wouldn’t really notice the difference, as the use of these iconic songs in the musical production breathe new meaning into Morrisette’s lyrics, while reminding you just how incredible these songs really are and have always been.
Jagged Little Pill will feel like a rock concert with its LCD-screens and minimalistic staging, helping audiences focus on the music, lyrics, and the cast. The best part is, the Australian cast of Jagged Little Pill all provide fiercely phenomenal and flawless performances to Alanis Morissette’s songs, including Maggie Mckenna’s showstopping performance of “You Oughta Know”, which not only brought the house down but received a standing ovation mid-show.
You oughta see this musical. I promise you that you won’t regret it and will be headbanging in your seat. At least, I certainly was. Jagged Little Pill is not only a love letter to the lyrical genius that is Alanis Morissette, but it’s also a bold, unapologetic, self-aware, inspiring, and powerful musical masterpiece.
Jagged Little Pill is currently playing in Melbourne at the Comedy Theatre until March 16, will open in Perth in May, and will have its return season in Sydney this July, 2022.
For more information and ticketing, visit: jaggedmusical.com
Photography by Daniel Boud.