Home #Hwoodtimes Jagged Little Pill Uncovers the Dark Reality Behind Suburban Dreams

Jagged Little Pill Uncovers the Dark Reality Behind Suburban Dreams

At the Pantages Theatre, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill is a deeply engaging musical Diablo Cody’s book transforms the songs into signposts for human conflict and hard-fought resolution.

By John Lavitt

Hollywood, CA (The Hollywood Times) 09-14-2022

At the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, the opening night of the hit musical based on songs from Alanis Morissette’s first album is a powerful and resonant success. From under the umbrella of Broadway in Hollywood, the Pantages continues to deliver shows that reflect the very best of the entertainment community. With a brilliant book by Academy-Award winner Diablo Cody, the story of Jagged Little Pill combines with music to create a rare atmosphere of mutual elevation. In other words, by watching the musical, you learn more about the meaning of the music as the songs enhance the storyline.

Although it opened and proved to be a success on Broadway before the pandemic, the COVID-19 quarantines extended the journey of the musical to the West Coast. After two long years, however, Los Angeles is blessed to have Jagged Little Pill on stage for a limited run from opening night on September 13th to an all-too-soon closing night on October 2nd. Precisely directed by Diane Paulus, the production also features choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, stage and costume design by Emily Rebholz and Riccardo Hernandez, lighting by Justin Townsend, and video production by Finn Ross. Indeed, it is an all-star behind-the-scenes lineup of theatrical excellence.

Lauren Channel and Company in JAGGED LITTLE PILL (Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade, 2022)

During the 74th Tony Awards in 2020, the Broadway musical received the most nominations with an overall count of 15. The show won awards for “Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical” and “Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. At the Grammy Awards in 2021, the show won the award for “Best Musical Theater Album.” Thus, given such recognition, those are very high standards for the traveling performance.

However, the traveling performance met those standards with vibrant energy. Centered around a well-off Connecticut family, the story reveals the troubles lurking behind the family’s happy Christmas card external image. More importantly, their difficulties reflect societal issues in the news and popular culture.

For example, the ultra-perfect mother Mary Jane Healy (Heidi Blickenstaff) is struggling with a secret addiction to painkillers. Nick Healy (Dillon Klena), the overachieving son, battles with a sense that his external success is a veil hiding a deep uncertainty about who he is and what he wants. Adopted African American daughter Frankie Healy (Lauren Chanel) rebels against the falsehoods of an enforced suburban identity. Finally, Steve Healy (Chris Hoch), the distant but caring father, struggles with workaholism as he fights to make enough money to maintain his family’s expensive lifestyle.

Jordan Leigh McCaskill, Chris Hoch and Heidi Blickenstaff in JAGGED LITTLE PILL (Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade, 2022)

Given the multiple storylines with multi-protagonists, Diablo Cody can interrogate many essential societal issues like the horrors of addiction, the question of consent, issues of sexual identity, and the destructive influence of social media. Not wanting to give too much away, the ultimate result is a roller-coaster ride of drama and emotion. What’s even better is this raucous storyline integrating fluidly with the songs.

Moreover, the other leading cast members are fantastic as well. As Frankie’s best friend and the token lesbian who embraces their identity in a judgmental community, Jade McLeod is a powerhouse as Jo. Identifying in their life as non-binary, Jade McLeod sings some of the show’s biggest songs, even receiving a standing ovation after one rousing number. She is a highlight in a show of many shining stars.

Jade McLeod and Lauren Chanel in JAGGED LITTLE PILL (Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade, 2022)

Jagged Little Pill at the Pantages Theatre should not be missed. Balancing inspired musical numbers with resonant drama, it realizes the potential of the musical genre. Indeed, rather than reducing the dramatic impact of a strong storyline, the musical numbers more deeply engage the audience, opening doors to emotion and meaning.

Photos by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade, 2022