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Broadway Q&A: Lauren Patten of ‘Jagged Little Pill’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

The 'Jagged Little Pill' star shares her unexpected dream role

Lauren Patten originated the role of Jo in Jagged Little Pill. The 1995 Grammy-winning album by Alanis Morissette inspired the musical. The show comes to Broadway after a sold-out run at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jagged Little Pill is directed by Diane Paulus and features a book by Diablo Cody, music supervision by Tom Kitt and choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. In the show, we are introduced to the upper middle class Healy family, who are not as perfect as they seem. Patten has received accolades for her fierce portrayal of Jo, who is the girlfriend of the Healy’s daughter Frankie. Her other theater credits includes Fun HomeThe Wolves and Days of Rage. She can also be seen in Blue Bloods, The Good Fight, Succession and The Big Sick. The Jagged Little Pill cast also features Elizabeth Stanley, Sean Allan Krill, Celia Rose Gooding, Derek Klena, Kathryn Gallagher and Antonio Cipriano.

Lauren Patton plays Jo in ‘Jagged Little Pill’ (Photo: Nathan Johnson)

Lauren Patton plays Jo in ‘Jagged Little Pill’ (Photo: Nathan Johnson)

When did you first begin working on Jagged Little Pill?
Lauren Patten: I have been involved since the first reading of the show. I got a last minute audition to come in and read. The script wasn't finished yet. I got the call the night before to go in at around noon. I sang and read a couple of scenes and was floored by the creative team from the beginning. It was insane. To get all those people in the room was amazing. So I was dying to be part of it. I've admired Diane Paulus for so long. And Tom Kitt is absolutely brilliant. Add then add Diablo Cody. When I was a teenager all I wanted to be was Ellen Page in Juno. I wanted to be that cool and have that funny wit. And now I get to work directly with Diablo. My character uses gallows humor a lot. I get her signature sound, which is so unique.

What qualities does your character have that you love?
LP: Jo is Frankie Healy’s best friend. Frankie is the daughter of the main family in the show. Jo is really funny, clever and witty. Jo uses her humor to get through. I love that she is a queer teenager. She is exploring her gender expression and trying to navigate her own relationships to her queerness. And like all the other characters in the show, she is dealing with all these external expectations and pressures to be a certain way. While she is still trying to figure it out for herself. She is such a vibrant character, and has all this stuff bubbling underneath the surface. And meanwhile, she treats everything with that signature humor that Diablo can write.

Do you remember one of the first times you were on stage?
LP: I have been acting since I was a young kid. Nobody in my family does it. I was sort of a strange child who talked about performing from the time that I could talk. I grew up in Chicago and did community theater in a Chicago suburb from the time I was six. The first show I ever did was an adaptation of The Christmas Pageant.

I have done both musicals and straight plays. But I did more straight plays as a teenager and young adult. It's really only recently that I started to do musicals. When I was younger, I had a lot of insecurities about whether I fit in the musical theater world because I don't have a traditional voice. My voice is low. And now, shows like this and other shows are celebrating less traditional voices and scores. With this show, I get to sing in a rock grid, which is great. I grew up listening to rock music. So that's what I can sing. I believe that actors in this industry go through times of insecurity. We think, “Am I not good enough? Am I not X, Y, Z enough?” For me, it was I don’t have the traditional sound that I heard on cast recordings that I listened to. I thought, “I'm never going to be really big in musicals.” So I just focused on plays. And then Fun Home didn't want somebody who sounded like a musical theater person. They didn't want it to sound like a big musical. Then I got to be involved in this.

Is there a role you are aching to play?
LP: I love Les Mis so much and grew up listening to it, like, an unhealthy amount. I love the scale of it, and the music is truly beautiful. If I could play Éponine or Fantine, I would die happy. Actually, Javert is my dream role. I could do a gender bend version and play Javert. That is what I really want.

If somebody were to ask why they should see Jagged Little Pill, what would you say?
LP: I don't think it's, “Why should you see it?” I think it’s, “You can't miss it.” You're not just coming in to listen to Alanis songs. And they are incredible. There’s the original story from Diablo Cody, which is not based on anything other than her brilliant brain. And it's vibrant, witty, deep and emotional. The show is a beautiful picture of what people in our country and the world are going through today. There is nothing else out there like it that really gets to heart of it. And it’s not just getting to the heart of it. It’s in the heart of it in a way that we can move towards, which is really beautiful.

For more of the best of Broadway and Off-Broadway this season, check out our full list of shows. 

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