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Now Opening: ‘Jagged Little Pill’ Arrives on Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Ron Fassler |

The Alanis Morissette musical follows a clashing Connecticut family

In 1995, Alanis Morissette was an ambitious 21-year-old Canadian singer who had only just learned how to play the guitar. She couldn’t get a single record label to sign her, but undeterred, she and Glen Ballard, an American songwriter, lyricist and record producer, put together an album titled Jagged Little Pill. They were turned down again, with only one label agreeing to produce it. But one was enough, and after the triumphantly angry single “You Oughta Know” broke through, other songs from the album quickly followed: “All I Really Want,” “Hand in My Pocket,” “Ironic,” “You Learn” and “Head Over Feet” helped to keep Jagged Little Pill in the top 20 on the Billboard 200 albums chart for more than a year. It wound up selling more that 33 million albums worldwide.

Now, almost 25 years later, those songs (in addition to some new material) will be part of a Broadway musical based on Morissette’s landmark recording.

Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’ has been reborn as a Broadway musical (Photo: Jagged Little Pill)

Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’ has been reborn as a Broadway musical (Photo: Jagged Little Pill)

Jagged Little Pill features a book by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno), and directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (Pippin), who has been responsible for such recent critical triumphs as Waitress and revivals of Hair and Porgy and Bess. At Paulus’s base, the A.R.T. in Boston, Jagged Little Pill was an enormous hit this past summer. As Interview Magazine recently put it: “What once stood as an autobiographical expression of trauma and empowerment has been expanded into a panoramic examination of addiction, gender, race and sexual assault, as seen through the eyes of a suburban Connecticut family.”

As with most creative undertakings of this type, the project has been in progress for some time – seven years, to be exact – and represents a first for both Cody and Morissette, who are novices to working on stage musicals. As Morissette has put it: “And here we are, years later, and I’m hearing the songs on the stage with objectivity for the first time, with a group of people who are so bright and emotionally literate, and all of a sudden it’s this connected experience. My head is spinning a bit.”

Jagged Little Pill can also claim contributions from Tom Kitt, a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer (Next to Normal), who has done the music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements, as well as by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, an Olivier Award winner and frequent Beyoncé collaborator, who is providing the choreography. And though the cast features a host of talented women and men, many of whom have been seen on Broadway before, nine out of 19 of them are making their Broadway debuts. Leading roles are being played by Lauren Patten (Fun Home), Elizabeth Stanley (On the Town) and Kathryn Gallager (Spring Awakening), among others.

There may be some tempted to pronounce this, in a pejorative way, as merely a “jukebox musical.” And it’s true that it’s not an original score for the theater. But 25 years after it was first heard, Jagged Little Pill remains a powerhouse, with an ability to connect across generations. And with little doubt of this talented team’s bona fides, determined to bring their A game to this stage version of an iconic record album, all that’s left is for the critics to have their say. Jagged Little Pill opens tonight (Dec. 5th) at the Broadhurst Theatre.

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