|Jagged Little Pill|
Original playbill for the 2018 world premiere at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
|Music||Alanis Morissette |
|Basis||Jagged Little Pill |
by Alanis Morissette
|Premiere||May 5, 2018American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts:|
Jagged Little Pill is a rock musical with music by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, lyrics by Morissette, and book by Diablo Cody, with additional music by Michael Farrell and Guy Sigsworth. The musical is inspired by the 1995 album of the same name by Morissette. It premiered at the American Repertory Theater in May 5, 2018, directed by Diane Paulus.
In November 2013, it was revealed that a musical adaptation of the album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette was being adapted for the stage with composer Tom Kitt attached to arrange the orchestrations. A first workshop was expected to take place in 2014, however in 2015 Morissette revealed that the show was still in the early stages and had yet to be written. In May 2017, it was announced that the musical would receive its world premiere in May 2018, 23 years after the album was released. A reading took place in 2017, with Idina Menzel taking the part of Mary Jane. The first public performance of songs from the show took place in March 2018, at the American Repertory Theater Gala.
The show has a book by Diablo Cody, with direction by Diane Paulus, choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, set design by Riccardo Hernandez, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Justin Townsend, and video design by Finn Ross. Music and lyrics are by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, with musical direction by Bryan Perri, sound design by Jonathan Deans and orchestration by Tom Kitt. In addition to music from the show's namesake album, Jagged Little Pill also features other songs from Morissette's catalog, including "Thank U", "That I Would Be Good", and "So Pure" from 1998's Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, "So Unsexy" and "Hands Clean" from 2002's Under Rug Swept, "Unprodigal Daughter" from 2002's Feast on Scraps, "No" from the Japanese edition of 2012's Havoc and Bright Lights and "Uninvited" from the soundtrack of the 1998 film City of Angels. Morissette also wrote two new songs for the musical, "Smiling" and "Predator".
Inspired by the themes and emotions from Morissette's album, the musical Jagged Little Pill deals with pain, healing, and empowerment. 
Mary Jane Healy, or MJ for short, is a mother that is writing the yearly family Christmas letter, which is her way of bragging about her seemingly perfect family. She writes about her husband Steve's job promotion, her daughter Frankie's art, and her son Nick's early admission to Harvard University. MJ writes that she got into a car crash, but is healing with the help of natural remedies, like hot yoga. What she doesn't write is that Steve is addicted to pornography, Frankie is making out with her best friend, Jo, as this letter is being written, and MJ is addicted to the painkillers from the car accident ("Right Through You"). One morning before breakfast, Steve complains about MJ's refusal to be intimate. At breakfast, MJ reprimands Frankie for wearing revealing shorts. Frankie is mad that they noticed her shorts, but not her sign for a protest she organized. MJ pressures Nick to be perfect to keep up the family's image ("All I Really Want"). At school, Nick's friends congratulate him on his acceptance to Harvard and tell him that he should come to a party that night to celebrate. Frankie and Jo discuss how their mothers don't understand or accept them: Frankie's because of her disapproval of her self expression and Jo's mom not accepting her being gay or her gender expression ("Hand in My Pocket").
MJ goes to a pharmacy to get a refill on her prescription for her painkillers. The pharmacist says that she needs a new prescription in order for them to fill it. MJ then calls a drug dealer to get her the painkillers instead. MJ moves through her day backwards, starting with getting the drugs in the alley, then doing her daily activities, and ending with her running out of the pills at the beginning of the day ("Smiling"). On the last day of Frankie's English class before winter break, she reads a short story she wrote aloud in a writer's workshop for her class to critique. The students in the class interrupt and criticize her for stating that the things she claims to be ironic in her piece are not actually ironic, just bad things that happened to someone. A new student, Phoenix, defends Frankie and encourages her to finish ("Ironic"). A romantic attraction begins between the two, and Phoenix states that he is single. After class, Phoenix and Frankie decide to go to the party that night. At home, Steve calls MJ to say that he is stuck at work. MJ and Steve get into an argument. Steve says he wants to see a marriage counselor, yet MJ refuses ("So Unsexy"). Nick comforts MJ after the fight. MJ claims that Nick is the only thing that she has ever done right. MJ asks Nick to watch a movie with her. He tells her that he is going to a party with Frankie. MJ claims that parties are 'not his scene' but still encourages him to go, and Nick reflects on the pressures of him from his mother to be perfect ("Perfect").
Frankie and Nick go to the party ("Lancer's Party (So Pure)"). Frankie and Phoenix find each other and leave the crowded party to talk alone, and they discuss their imperfect family lives. Frankie feels like her black identity is being erased by her adoptive white family. Phoenix's dad left when he was young and never calls, and Phoenix has to help his mom take care of his sister with a medical condition. Meanwhile, Jo couldn't attend the party because her mom forced her to go to a church function. Jo is scolded by her mom and church for being gay and not dressing femininely enough ("That I Would Be Good"). Phoenix asks Frankie if she has a boyfriend, and she says that she doesn't. The next morning at school, Jo and Frankie discuss how both of their nights were not fun and didn't go as planned. Jo brings up Phoenix and his crush on Frankie, but Frankie brushes it off and doesn't mention her talk with him at the party. Jo shows Frankie pictures that are circulating throughout the school of Bella, Nick's friend, who was drunk, passed out, and had her shirt pulled up at the party. Students are making fun of Bella and calling her a slut. Frankie and Jo go to Bella's house, despite barely knowing her, to check on her. Bella reveals that Andrew, Nick's best friend, was the one who took the pictures and raped her, but no one believes her. Frankie and Jo tell Bella they believe her. Frankie goes home and wakes Nick up to reprimand him about going to the police since he was the only witness of Bella at the party. Nick brushes off Bella's claim, saying that she was drunk and being dramatic per usual. MJ overhears the conversation and insists that Nick can't come forward as it might ruin his reputation. MJ blames Bella for what happened, saying that this situation is super common, but she is visibly upset by the story and leaves the house to get some air ("Wake Up"). MJ walks to the church for the first time in a while to pray about her failing marriage, struggling relationship with Frankie, and for help with her addiction. She then reflects on her own memory of being raped in college, but blames herself and feels it was God's plan for her ("Forgiven").
Steve finally convinces MJ to go to their first marriage counseling session, despite her reluctance ("Not the Doctor"). Steve reveals that he and MJ have not had sex for over a year. MJ says that they don't need sex since Steve is constantly watching porn. The therapist wonders if MJ's car accident may have triggered memories of past sexual trauma, but MJ insists she does not have any sexual trauma. Steve states that he appreciates MJ for all she does for him and the family, and he tells her that he misses her and the way they used to be. Meanwhile, Frankie and Phoenix sing to each other and end up sleeping together ("Head over Feet"). Jo walks into the Healy's house uninvited ("Your House") and walks in on Frankie and Phoenix. Jo gets mad and storms out of the house. On her way out, she runs into MJ and Steve fighting while coming home from therapy. Jo tells them that Frankie just had sex with Phoenix. Phoenix leaves quickly, leaving Frankie alone with her parents. MJ and Steve reprimand her for having sex so young. Frankie comes out to her parents as bisexual, and she gets mad at her parents for being disapproving of her consensual sex while they don't care about Bella's rape. Frankie says that she's not actually their daughter since she was adopted and blames her parents for only seeing her as who they want her to be, not who she really is. Frankie decides to run away to New York City. Steve and MJ get into another fight about Steve not being present during Frankie's childhood. Frankie takes a train alone to New York ("Unprodigal Daughter"). When she gets lost in the city, Frankie calls Phoenix. She tells him that she loves him and that he should come pick her up. When Phoenix doesn't say 'I love you' back and that he needs to stay at home to help his sister with her malfunctioning feeding tube, Frankie gets angry and feels that Phoenix only wants her for her body.
Students are gossiping about Bella and her accusations against Andrew. Bella comes to the Healy's house to talk to Nick, but the only person home is MJ. MJ tells Bella she was also raped in college. After Bella leaves, Nick tells MJ the entirety of what happened that night. He was in the room when Bella was unconscious and raped, but he did nothing ("Predator"). Nick tells his mom that he wants to go to the police, but MJ says that it would only ruin his life and not help Bella's. MJ is devastated and furious, but Nick accuses her of only caring about herself and her reputation, and not about Bella. MJ hits him. Jo comes to New York to pick up Frankie after Frankie desperately calls her, lost and out of money. She shows little remorse about sleeping with Phoenix since she didn't think her relationship with Jo was exclusive. She tells Jo that she fell in love with Phoenix. Jo says that Frankie would have told her about Phoenix if she didn't know it was wrong. Jo ends the relationship ("You Oughta Know"). Frankie gets a call that something is wrong with MJ. At home, MJ overdoses on her pills, and Steve and Nick find her unconscious ("Uninvited"). When Steve gets to the hospital, he is devastated that he didn't know how MJ had an addiction and comforts her ("Mary Jane"). They both agree to start to truly try to work on their marriage. When Nick gets to the hospital, MJ tells him that he should go to the police because justice for Bella is more important than her reputation, but Nick already went to the police. Meanwhile, many students attend the rally that Frankie organized for Bella. Bella is mad at Nick since people only believed her once Nick came forward, and her statement wasn't enough ("No").
A year has passed, and MJ is writing the yearly Healy Christmas letter. She writes about Frankie's passion for social justice and her dedication to helping Bella. MJ opens up about having been a victim of sexual assault as well. Bella is finally going to tell her side of the story in court. MJ and Frankie reconcile after MJ overcomes her addiction. MJ tells Frankie that she wanted her to feel like every other kid and not be treated differently because of her race, but Frankie tells her that she will always be different ("Thank U"). Nick is taking a year off before college to find himself. MJ discusses that her and Steve are in therapy, both individually and together. She opens up about her overdose and treatment for her addiction to painkillers, but she has learned to see how kind the people in her life truly are. Frankie dares MJ to email the Christmas letter to everyone, and MJ sends it. She decides that this will be her last Christmas letter. Jo and Frankie rekindle their friendship, and Jo has a new girlfriend. Frankie and Phoenix are now just friends ("You Learn").
Jagged Little Pill ran from May 5 to July 15, 2018, at the Loeb Drama Center, within the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The cast included Elizabeth Stanley as Mary Jane,Derek Klena as Nick,Lauren Patten as Jo, Sean Allan Krill as Steve and Celia Gooding as Frankie.
In January 2019, the producers announced plans to bring the show to Broadway in fall 2019, also directed by Paulus. It began previews at the Broadhurst Theatre on November 3 and opened on December 5, 2019.
The New York Times called the Cambridge production "[p]assionate, dramatically compelling, and big-hearted...Jagged Little Pill breaks the jukebox musical mold, and takes on the good work we are always asking new musicals to do: the work of singing about real things." In a New York Times feature story published on May 20, 2018, the show's story, "steeped in hot-button issues like opiate addiction, gender identity and sexual assault", was described as being "very much of the present, and may just be the most woke musical since Hair."
Bob Verini of Variety wrote, "Not since Rent has a musical invested so many bravura roles with so much individual life...It's a risky business, making a musical not from a story demanding to be told but from a set of songs merely available to be used. Jagged Little Pill triumphantly avoids the pitfalls. Always engaging, often moving and even rousing, the show boasts dramatic interest and integrity on its own theatrical terms, courtesy of director Diane Paulus, first-time librettist Diablo Cody, and that peerless, soulful balladeer of the modern Western condition, Alanis Morissette."
|Character||Reading (2017)||Workshop (2017)||Cambridge (2018)||Broadway (2019)|
|Mary Jane "M.J." Healy||Idina Menzel||Elizabeth Stanley|
|Steve Healy||Michael Park||Sean Allan Krill|
|Mary Frances "Frankie" Healy||Celia Gooding|
|Nick Healy||Jonah Platt||Derek Klena|
|Joanne "Jo"||Lauren Patten|
|Andrew Montefiore||Logan Hart|
|Bella Fox||Phillipa Soo||Kathryn Gallagher|
The original Broadway cast recording was released on November 29, 2019. It debuted at number two on the Billboard Cast Albums chart, number 14 on the Alternative Album Sales chart, and number 26 on the Rock Album Sales chart.