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REVIEW: Powerful Jagged Little Pill Trip (HTT/Orpheum Theater)

Jade McLeod (center) stars in the North American Tour of jagged little pill, currently playing at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade, 2022.

Alanis Morissette’s powerful musical jagged little pill musical opened on Tuesday at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. Based on the eponymous Grammy-winning album, the musical originally opened on Broadway in 2019, but its run was interrupted by Covid.  Director Diane Paulus, Movement Director and Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaouri, and Music Supervisor Tom Kitt contributed notably to the show.

jagged little pill is unusual in including not only music from the original album, but also other songs by the composer, including two newer songs written just for the show.  Morissette wrote the lyrics and Morissette and Glen Ballard co-wrote the music.  Additional music was provided by Michael Farrell and Guy Sigsworth.

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.

When the album was first released, I was at that strange stage of life where I was approaching middle age, raising young children and losing my connection with popular culture.  I had ceased watching MTV music videos and found myself watching VH1 (a music video station for “older” adults).  I had never heard of Alanis Morissette, but then she was only 21 when she wrote the songs for jagged little pill.  Back when there were still record/cd stores in Downtown Minneapolis, I kept walking past the album on the skyway system and impulsively bought it.  After first listening, I was hooked, and I probably played it over 100 times – it wore out at some point in the year 2000.  I felt the music spoke only to me and I later learned that millions of high school students felt the same way.  I did not realize then what a cultural artifact that the album had become.  It ultimately sold over 30 million copies, and I am sure that virtually everyone at opening night had owned a copy at one time.

There are a lot of storylines going on in the show, including perfect mom develops addiction to painkillers after car accident, breadwinning dad drinks too much and views pornography when he gets no satisfaction at home, youngest daughter is exploring her bi-sexuality with both a girlfriend and a boyfriend, and perfect son is cracking up from finding that he is not so perfect. This jagged family repeatedly reminded me of the engrossing family in the musical Next to Normal.

Lauren Chanel and the company of the North American Tour of jagged little pill – photo by Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade, 2022.

But the music in the show is what makes this a compelling musical.  Although some may label it a “jukebox” musical, it is an incredibly immersive jukebox.  The songs often have a driving beat that take on a life of their own.  Not every song quite fits the storyline, but when they do, it is very memorable. When actress Jade McLeod, who plays the daughter’s best friend/girlfriend Jo, sings “You Outa Know” with the chorus, the emotion and raw rage in the performance brought the entire audience to a standing ovation.

The show has an outstanding cast including Heidi Blickenstaff as the addicted, sexual assault survivor mom and Lauren Chanel as the daughter.  These two have most of the songs in the musical.  Chris Hoch as the neglected husband and Dillon Klena as the Harvard-bound son also succeed in carving out their own part of the show.  Jade McLeod shines whenever she gets the spotlight with both her humor and her singing voice. Allison Sheppard as Bella, a teenage friend of the family, also establishes a unique presence even though her storyline is right out of a Law & Order SVU TV episode.

The company of the North American Tour of jagged little pill – photo by Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade, 2022.

Jagged also has a large chorus of performers which sometimes works and sometimes does not.  For scenes like the teenage party and the rageful songs such as “You Outa Know” the large chorus is perfect.  But in some of the more intimate and healing scenes, it seemed like the large number of people on stage crowded out the emotions.

Scenic Designer Riccardo Hernández, Lighting Designer Justin Townsend and Video Designer Lucy Mackinnon effectively work together to create a set background.  These elements merge to enhance the musical scenes.

If the album Jagged meant something special to you, you definitely need to see this musical.  But even if you are unfamiliar with Morrissette’s music, this show provides a riveting introduction to it.

jagged little pill is playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota, through August 13, 2023.  In-person student/educator rush is available for all performances.

Bev Wolfe