Jagged Little Pill
photo of the original Broadway cast showing the logo for the musical
Broadway promotional poster
Music
LyricsAlanis Morissette
BookDiablo Cody
BasisJagged Little Pill
by Alanis Morissette
PremiereMay 5, 2018 (2018-05-05): American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Productions2018 Cambridge
2019 Broadway
AwardsTony Award for Best Book of a Musical
Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album

Jagged Little Pill is a jukebox 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 and deals with pain, healing, and empowerment.[1][2] It premiered at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 5, 2018, directed by Diane Paulus.

The show began previews on Broadway in November 2019, and opened on December 5, 2019, and closed on December 17, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the 74th Tony Awards, Jagged Little Pill won two awards on 15 nominations, the most nominations of any show of the 2019–2020 season. It also won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.

Background

Co-composer and lyricist Alanis Morissette and librettist Diablo Cody.

In November 2013, it was revealed that a musical version of the album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette was being adapted for the stage[3] with composer Tom Kitt attached to pen new arrangements and orchestrations for the production.[4] A first workshop was expected to take place in 2014;[5] however, in 2015 Morissette revealed that the show was still in early stages and had yet to be written.[6] In May 2017, it was announced that the musical would receive its world premiere in May 2018, 23 years after the album was released.[7] A reading took place in 2017, with Idina Menzel taking the part of Mary Jane.[8] The first public performance of songs from the show took place in March 2018, at the American Repertory Theater Gala.[9]

The show has a book by Diablo Cody,[10] with direction by Diane Paulus,[11] choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui,[12] set design by Riccardo Hernandez,[13] costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Justin Townsend, and video design by Finn Ross.[14] Music and lyrics are by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard,[15] with musical direction by Bryan Perri,[16] sound design by Jonathan Deans, and orchestrations by Tom Kitt.[17] In addition to music from the show's namesake album, the musical 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", with the former being included as the second single from her ninth studio album Such Pretty Forks in the Road.

Plot summary

Act I

Mary Jane (MJ) Healy is a mother writing the yearly family Christmas letter. 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.[18] What she doesn't write is that Steve is addicted to pornography, Frankie is making out with her best friend, Jo, as the letter is being written, and MJ is addicted to the painkillers from the car accident ("Right Through You"). MJ pressures Nick to be perfect to keep up the family's image ("All I Really Want"). At school, 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 them being gay or their gender expression ("Hand in My Pocket").

MJ tries to get drugs from the pharmacy, but she is out of refills. Desperate, she meets with a familiar dealer who provides her with opioids. MJ moves through her day backwards, starting with unpacking groceries at home, to getting her painkillers in the alley, keeping up appearances with other school mums, 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 criticize her since 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. After class, Phoenix and Frankie decide to go to a party that night. At home, 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. Nick reflects on the pressures on 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. Meanwhile, Jo doesn't attend the party because their mom forced them to go to a church function. Jo's mom scolds them for not dressing femininely enough ("That I Would Be Good"). The next morning, 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. Frankie goes home and wakes Nick up to reprimand him about not going to the police because he was the only one who saw how drunk Bella was. Nick brushes off Bella's claim, saying that Bella was being dramatic per usual. MJ overhears the conversation and insists that Nick should not come forward as it might ruin his reputation. MJ blames Bella for what happened since she chose to drink, but she is visibly upset by the story ("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").

Act II

Steve and MJ go to their first marriage counseling session, despite MJ's reluctance ("Not the Doctor"). Meanwhile, Frankie and Phoenix hang out at a playground and end up sleeping together ("Head over Feet"). Jo enters the Healys' house uninvited ("Your House") and walks in on Frankie and Phoenix. Jo gets mad and storms out of Frankie's room. MJ and Steve come home early and Jo tells them that Frankie and Phoenix had sex. 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 disapproving of her consensual sex but not caring about Bella's rape. Frankie runs away to New York City. Steve and MJ 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 a medical condition, Frankie gets angry and feels that Phoenix used her for her body.

Students are gossiping about Bella and her accusations against Andrew. Bella comes to the Healys' house to talk to Nick, but the only person home is MJ. MJ tries to comfort Bella by telling her she was also raped in college. Bella asks MJ when she started to feel better after her rape, but MJ doesn't answer. Bella leaves realizing that it may never get better. Nick comes clean to MJ, telling her that he walked in on Andrew raping an unconscious Bella, but he did nothing and left ("Predator"). Nick says he wants to go to the police, but MJ says that it would ruin his life and not help Bella's. 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 she calls them out of desperation, lost and out of money. Frankie shows little remorse for sleeping with Phoenix since she didn't think her relationship with Jo was exclusive. She tells Jo that she is in love with Phoenix. Jo ends the relationship ("You Oughta Know"). At home, MJ overdoses on pills. Steve and Nick find her unconscious ("Uninvited"). When Steve gets to the hospital, he is devastated that he didn't know MJ had an addiction and promises her he will be there for her and the family from now on ("Mary Jane"). When Nick gets to the hospital, MJ tells him that he should go to the police, but Nick already told the police about what happened to Bella. Meanwhile, many students attend the rally that Frankie organized to get justice 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 Christmas letter again. She writes about the progress being made in their relationships and lives. 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 wouldn't have wanted to fit in with the people in their town ("Thank U"). Frankie dares MJ to email the Christmas letter to everyone, despite its frankness about her overdose and her dislike of the culture in their town. MJ sends it, deciding 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. Frankie and MJ, Bella and Nick, and Bella and MJ all now appear to have mended their relationships ("You Learn").

Productions

Cambridge (2018)

Original playbill for the 2018 world premiere at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Original playbill for the 2018 world premiere at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Jagged Little Pill ran from May 5 to July 15, 2018, at the Loeb Drama Center, within the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[19] The cast included Elizabeth Stanley as Mary Jane,[20] Derek Klena as Nick,[16] Lauren Patten as Jo,[16] Sean Allan Krill as Steve,[16] Celia Rose Gooding as Frankie[16] and Antonio Cipriano as Phoenix.[16]

Broadway (2019–2021)

Branding seen outside the Broadhurst Theatre
Branding seen outside the Broadhurst Theatre

In January 2019, the producers announced plans to bring the show to Broadway in fall 2019, also directed by Paulus.[21][22] It began previews at the Broadhurst Theatre on November 3 and opened on December 5, 2019.[23] The production went into hiatus when all Broadway theatres closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[24] The show reopened at the Broadhurst Theatre on October 21, 2021, with Heidi Blickenstaff filling in for Stanley who had given birth during the hiatus. Morgan Dudley and Adi Roy also joined the cast in their Broadway debuts, replacing Gooding and Cipriano.[25][26]

In December 2021, multiple performances of Jagged Little Pill were cancelled due to COVID-19 issues within the show's cast and crew. On December 20, 2021, it was announced that the production would not reopen, citing the need to "prioritize the health and safety of the cast, crew, and entire team", thereby retroactively making December 17, 2021 its final show after 36 previews and 171 performances.[27][28]

Australia (2021–2022)

An Australian production opened at Sydney's Theatre Royal in December 2021. It is scheduled to relocate to Melbourne's Comedy Theatre in January 2022. The cast features Natalie Bassingthwaighte (Mary Jane), Tim Draxl (Steve), Emily Nkomo (Frankie), Liam Head (Nick), Maggie McKenna (Jo), Grace Miell (Bella) and Aydan (Phoenix).[29][30]

West End (2022)

The London production of Jagged Little Pill is scheduled to open in November 2022 and included several crew members who worked on the Broadway production, including director Paulus.[31]

Critical reception

Cambridge production

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."[32] 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."[33]

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."[34]

Broadway

The Broadway production of Jagged Little Pill opened to positive reviews. The New York Times described the musical as "redemptive, rousing and real ... Jagged Little Pill stands alongside the original musicals that have been sustaining the best hopes of Broadway".[35] Praising the show's score, Variety wrote, "Morissette’s youthful perspective and the rocking-good score make Jagged Little Pill feel very much of the moment".[36] Rolling Stone awarded the production four out of five stars, writing that although the show feels "overly 'woke'" at times and "wears its earnestness on its sleeve", Jagged Little Pill burns with passion ... and enthusiastic beauty."[37] The show was nominated for 15 Tony Awards.[38]

Musical numbers

All lyrics by Alanis Morissette. All music by Morissette and Glen Ballard, except for "No" (co-composed with Guy Sigworth), "Predator" and "Smiling" (co-composed with Michael Farrell).

Cast

Character Reading (2017) Workshop (2017) Cambridge (2018) Broadway (2019) Australian Tour (2021) North America Tour (2022)[39]
Mary Jane "M.J." Healy Idina Menzel[8] Elizabeth Stanley[40] Natalie Bassingthwaighte Heidi Blickenstaff
Steve Healy Michael Park Sean Allan Krill[40] Tim Draxl Chris Hoch
Mary Frances "Frankie" Healy Celia Rose Gooding[40] Emily Nkomo Lauren Chanel
Nicholas "Nick" Healy Derek Klena[40] Liam Head Dillon Klena
Jo Taylor Lauren Patten[40] Maggie (Max) Mckenna Jade McLeod
Bella Fox Kathryn Gallagher Grace Miell Allison Sheppard
Phoenix Antonio Cipriano[40] AYDAN Rishi Golani
Andrew Montefiore Logan Hart Josh Gates Jason Goldston

Recording

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.[41][42][43] It won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, however, due to the Grammy's rules, Gallagher, Gooding, Patten and Stanley are the only cast members who received the award.

Controversy

In the original A.R.T. run of the show, Jo was a nonbinary character, played by Lauren Patten, a cisgender woman. On social media, Patten retweeted and posted in support of Jo as a nonbinary character, confirming the use of they/them pronouns for the character and referring to them as non-binary and genderqueer on multiple occasions. There were also multiple references in the show to Jo not being cisgender.[44]

When the show moved to Broadway, the official social media of Jagged Little Pill and Patten removed any posts referencing Jo as being non-binary or genderqueer or using they/them pronouns, now referring to the character as a cisgender female. A 2020 interview with Patten quoted her as stating: "Jo never was written as anything other than cis".[45] The show now uses she/her pronouns for Jo rather than they/them.[44]

In April 2021, debate and backlash from the theatre community on social media over the issue was revived, with the switch being seen as another example of the underrepresentation of trans and nonbinary people on Broadway.[44]

On September 17, 2021, the producers behind the show released a statement apologizing for making Jo cisgender and for not listening to feedback. They also posted a plan for future productions, including hiring a new dramaturge to help revise the scripts and casting actors playing Jo who are on their own gender journey.[46]

Awards and nominations

Cambridge premiere production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2019 Elliot Norton Awards[47][48] Outstanding Musical Production Nominated
Outstanding Musical Performance by an Actress Lauren Patten Nominated
Elizabeth Stanley Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Won
Outstanding Musical Direction Bryan Perri Nominated
IRNE Awards[49][50] Best Musical Nominated
Best New Musical Nominated
Best Actress – Musical Elizabeth Stanley Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Musical Lauren Patten Won
Best Ensemble Nominated
Best Director – Musical Diane Paulus Nominated
Best Music Director Bryan Perri Nominated
Best Sound Design Jonathan Deans Nominated

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2020 Tony Awards[51] Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Diablo Cody Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Elizabeth Stanley Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Derek Klena Nominated
Sean Allan Krill Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Kathryn Gallagher Nominated
Celia Rose Gooding Nominated
Lauren Patten Won
Best Direction of a Musical Diane Paulus Nominated
Best Choreography Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Nominated
Best Orchestrations Tom Kitt Nominated
Best Scenic Design of a Musical Riccardo Hernández and Lucy MacKinnon Nominated
Best Costume Design of a Musical Emily Rebholz Nominated
Best Lighting Design of a Musical Justin Townsend Nominated
Best Sound Design of a Musical Jonathan Deans Nominated
Drama Desk Awards[52] Outstanding Actress in a Musical Elizabeth Stanley Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Lauren Patten Won
Outstanding Orchestrations Tom Kitt Won
Drama League Awards[53][54] Outstanding Production of a Musical Nominated
Distinguished Performance Lauren Patten Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards[55] Outstanding New Broadway Musical Honoree
Outstanding Book of a Musical Diablo Cody Honoree
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Elizabeth Stanley Honoree
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Kathryn Gallagher Honoree
Lauren Patten Honoree
Outstanding Director of a Musical Diane Paulus Honoree
Outstanding Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Honoree
Outstanding Orchestrations Tom Kitt Honoree
GLAAD Media Awards[56][57] Outstanding Broadway Production Nominated
2021 Grammy Awards[58] Best Musical Theater Album Neal Avron, Kathryn Gallagher, Pete Ganbarg, Vivek J. Tiwary, Tom Kitt, Michael Parker, Lauren Patten, Celia Rose Gooding, Craig Rosen, Elizabeth Stanley Won
Artios Awards[59] New York Broadway Theatre – Musical Stephen Kopel Nominated

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