Review of Jagged Little Pill on Broadway

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    December 5, 2019
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    It was a ritual in 1995. Friday nights, often feeling hopeless and ignorant about Slobodan Milošević, I would come home to my Brooklyn apartment. Diminished by a corporate day job, an unrequited love in my heart and an artist’s very light pockets, I would combine flour, olive oil, yeast, salt and engage my roommate’s glorious sound system with Alanis Morissette’s debut album. On my hands and knees I scrubbed Murphy’s Oil into my hardwood floors rising to beat, knead, repeat and bake. I would “wake up” singing, crying, screaming those lyrics until I settled down with hot bread, cheese, a glass of wine and "Unsolved Mysteries" – ah, back in touch with my spirit. Jagged Little Pill is now on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre, directed by Diane Paulus, with a book by Diablo Cody that will dust off your tarnished ‘90’s righteous anger and feed your hope. My eyes go wet the first five minutes because this is a religious experience.

    Afraid to feel that messy passion again, Generation X? Anxiety factors are closer than Bosnia now. We’re raising our kids in just a few hours a week because it takes a 60-hour work week to provide for them. What’s the matter with Mary Jane Healy (Elizabeth Stanley), the super mom we gave up trying to be when we cancelled our subscription to Parents Magazine? She forgot how to ask for what she wants when she stopped walking around naked in her living room. Husband, Steve Healy (Sean Allan Krill) would give up internet porn forever if his wife would just free the woman he loves from a prison of 2019 impossible expectations. MJ is pieces of me, for sure. Krill is starving for direction, delicious with gallows humor and a heart given with no conditions.

    But this story is not that of one generational thread. It is a visceral woven tapestry of the kids we made, trauma induced memory, rape, racism, sexual identity questions, opioid addiction, Connecticut Soul Cycle bitches, and extreme pressure to get that Ivy League acceptance letter. The artistry of Morissette is magnified by Cody - that raw honest desire Generation X has been afraid to feel since the '90's. We commit to poetic earthy characters manifested organically from the womb; not at all like a narrative forced into an album written 25 years ago to make another buck. (Don’t think Mama Mia! That was a sweet show. Not fair.)

    Frankie Healy (Celia Rose Gooding) is the fearless activist daughter, just sixteen, of Steve and MJ Healy. She would love it if people would just go ahead and talk about the fact that she is a different color from her adoptive parents rather than just pretending they don’t see it. Frankie likes to kiss girls like Jo (Lauren Patten), a fellow activist and fearless lover taking a nose dive into heartbreak. Patten is humble on the stage, but there is serious power in her thoughtful performance, which brought us to all to our feet. Seriously, the guy next to me who could barely stand without help, got up to cheer. Patten, I’ll have lunch with you any time. Call me. When Stanley throws up those jagged little pills swimming in the acid of our apathetic stomachs, spilling the mess all over the stage, I heard barely restrained sobbing behind me. Oh yes, we get it. Someone told us to be afraid somewhere around 2001 and we shut up because we believed them. Morissette is here to remind us to hold up a mirror to that fear and laugh. Wake up! Because only then will everything be fine fine fine.

    Oh, c’mere. Shhhh. That definition of ironic thing? Totally handled. Get your ass in this seat and join the revolution!

    (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

    "Alanis Morissette’s “ironic” fury finds a perfect Broadway musical setting in Diablo Cody’s fiery indictment of, well, everything."
    Jesse Green for New York Times

    "Directed by Diane Paulus, Jagged Little Pill has moments of exciting stagecraft and performance, including one number that is strikingly staged backward and two dream-ballet versions of women in crisis (danced by Heather Lang). But the show has a faintly medicinal flavor. It wants to help heal us of multiple social ailments at once: rape culture, opioid addiction, racial microaggression, queer marginalization. What gets lost in the mix is Morissette’s individual voice—the sound of one person insisting on the right to be different things at the same time."
    Adam Feldman for Time Out New York

    "Jagged Little Pill, much like Next To Normal and Dear Evan Hanson, is concerned with the collateral damage inflicted on us by family and social pressures. And given Morissette's empowering lyrics, in this #MeToo era, the entire show becomes a moving anthem of our time."
    Roma Torre for NY1

    "Alanis Morissette's era-defining 1995 alt-rock album, Jagged Little Pill, became an international sensation not just for its galvanizing pop hooks and crunchy guitar riffs. It was the compelling combination of its raw, intensely personal female introspection alongside universal reflections on the debris of adolescence that made young women, in particular, hear their own roller coaster of emotional experience in the songs. Hats off to writer Diablo Cody and director Diane Paulus for their ambition in weaving that thematic core into a coherent narrative that speaks directly to the messy reality of American life almost a quarter-century later."
    David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter

    "It would be an insult to call this stage adaptation a jukebox musical, because unlike most specimens of that theatrical genre, the story seems to emerge organically from the music. Both structurally and thematically, comparisons to the 2008 musical Next to Normal by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt are probably inevitable. (In each show, an all-American family is profoundly challenged by a mother suffering from a debilitating condition.) But Morissette’s youthful perspective and the rocking-good score make Jagged Little Pill feel very much of the moment — this moment."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety