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PREVIEW: Jagged Little Pill Cuts Deep (Hennepin Theatre Trust/Orpheum Theatre)

Lauren Chanel and the company of the North American Tour of Jagged Little Pill. Photo by Evan Zimmerman and Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.

In July 1995, my 13-year-old daughter came home with a CD that I didn’t know. The artist’s name was Alanis Morissette, and the album was called Jagged Little Pill. For the next 18 months or so, it was the soundtrack for her life – and mine. “Ironic” seemed to play every hour on the car stereo. “You Oughta Know” (the radio edit, anyway) played almost as constantly, interspersed with Joan Osborne’s “One of Us”, and once we got a car with a CD player, JLP almost never left it, until an album called Spice by (you guessed it) the Spice Girls dropped and pushed JLP off to the side. 

Ever feel like the world is out to get you? Dillon Klena and company of the North American Tour of Jagged Little Pill. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade, 2022.

Jagged Little Pill went on to become one of the best-selling albums of all time, with 33 million copies sold, and a quintet of Grammy Awards including Album of the Year. It was a hot moment in a cultural shift that started to show a different type of women’s voice – one that was unabashedly raw as it voiced disappointment, frustration, and more, even as it submarined in songs like “Right Through You” about exploitation in the music industry. And, now, it is a Broadway musical.

That a bestselling album became a Broadway musical isn’t without precedent – after all, Green Day’s American Idiot has gone that path, and The Who’s Tommy went from concept album to movie to full-on musical extravaganza. Jagged Little Pill, whose national tour opens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis on August 8, is unusual in how much of the original album team is on board. Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard (also JLP‘s producer) co-wrote the album’s songs, and return for the major writing of the stage adaptation. (Michael Farrell and Guy Sigsworth wrote some additional music to tie things together, as is common when singer-songwriters make their first foray onto Broadway.) The book by Diablo Cody, in her Broadway debut, is not only celebrated, but took home the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical. (The show was nominated for 15 Tony Awards, and later took home a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.)

Stage adds a layer of drama that existed only in your imagination. L to R: Heidi Blickenstaff, Allison Sheppard and Jena VanElslander in the North American Tour of Jagged Little Pill. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade, 2022.

Here’s the story of Jagged Little Pill in a nutshell: A family has problems. Drug addition, porn addictions, experiments in bisexuality, parental disapproval, and more, and that’s just the first couple scenes. It’s a messy world, and the score revels in those “no, it’s not all alright” vibes in a way that builds gloriously on the sonic world set up in the original album and now drawn out for maximum theatrical impact. It’s a jagged world, and it lands so well because it cuts deep.

Did You Know?

  • Madonna’s boutique record company Maverick Records signed Alanis Morissette after hearing only 30 seconds of “Perfect”, which she had recorded with Glen Ballard.
  • Thanks to the string of successful singles that kicked off with the release of “You Oughta Know,” Jagged Little Pill became the second biggest-selling album in the U.S. – nearly one in ten people in America owned the album.
  • The stage version of Jagged Little Pill was directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus, who developed Waitress: The Musical and the 2013 revival of Pippin).
  • The show features choreography by Tony Award nominee and frequent Beyoncé collaborator Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

Jagged Little Pill plays at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN from August 8-13.

John Anderson