‘JAGGED LITTLE PILL’ NEEDS TO TAKE A CHILL PILL, ALANIS MORISSETTE SONGS SEND AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE
Writer Diablo Cody has theatricalized the hit album of teen angst with a busy script that covers a list of many jagged pills to swallow.
Review by Vince Mediaa
Another jukebox musical has arrived this fall season in the shadow of the Moulin Rouge down the street from the Golden Gate Theatre. JAGGED LITTLE PILL featuring the songs of Alanis Morissette, is currently on stage through November 6th at Broadway SF Golden Gate stage. This is not a bio musical about the Grammy singer songwriter This jukebox musical weaves Morissette and Glen Ballard's song book into a story by Oscar winner Diablo Cody that touches on a variety of family and social topics. Directed by Diane Paulus, music supervisor Tom Kitt and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and featuring some cast members from the Broadway company.
Cody’s story deals with forgiveness, diversity, and self-help. With a pounding opening number “All I Really Want” that is one of the hits from the album of the same name. The hit songs arrive fast and hard with a young cast singing over the top with an on stage rock band conducted by Matt Doebler.
The family is an idealized Ozzie and Harriet American dream, the Healys with mom Mary played by Heidi Blickenstaff. This drug inflicted mother has just finished her holiday newsletter full of fake love. Fake dad Steve played by Chris Hoch sits at work all day watching kinky porn and avoids the family but encourages his wife into marriage counseling. Daughter Frankie, played by the gifted Lauren Chanel has isolated herself from her adopted family. She is a bisexual activist who sings “Ironic” with Phoenix played by Rishi Golani. Mom Mary Jane adores her graduating son, Nick played by Dillon Klena. I got that EVAN HANSEN and NEXT TO NORMAL feel. Mom is medicated on pills and drugs and her demons love it, as she sings “Smiling” with the cast. When her prescriptions run out, she finds a plug to get her popping street meds.
Diablo Cody's book has many issues focusing on back stories that don’t have much of an ark. But important topics are on the table: drug abuse, marriage, porn, rape, victims, Me Too, white privilege college boys, mixed adoption; many jagged pills to swallow. What makes this musical so smart is the use of the songs from Morissette’s library that cover that dramatic subtext. The song “Head Over Feet” for one example opens some dark doors. The radio hit “You Oughta Know,” given to Jo when she learns that her girlfriend Frankie is more interested in the hot new boy Phoenix. She catches them in bed and snitches to the parents; the number becomes a showstopper.
The song “Wake Up” probably carries the most power for drama. It is the musical baseline for a dark story for a girl named Bella played by the excellent Alison Sheppard who is assaulted at a party and cruelly mocked by her classmates. One of two new songs that Morissette wrote just for this musical, “Predator,” was written for Bella, whose story becomes the plot hook that gives the entire second act its ark and gives JAGGED LITTLE PILL a pointed political path. Yet it still feels like a movie on the LIFETIME channel at times not having focus. I think fans of Alanis Morrissette need a bit more than this little pill, they may need a stronger prescription.
Broadway SF Presents
The American Repertory Production
JAGGED LITTLE PILL
Music by Alanis Morrissette and Glen Ballard
Directed by Diane Paulis
Written by Diablo Cody
Music Arrangements by Tom Kitt
MUST CLOSE NOV 6TH
Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St
The show runs 2 hours and 55 minutes and one intermission
Tickets: $66-$157 (subject to change); 888-746-1799, www.shnsf.com
Jagged Little Pill : Book by Diablo Cody. Music by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard. Lyrics by Morissette. Directed by Diane Paulus. Through Nov. 6. Two hours, 55 minutes. $66-$157.50, subject to change. Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F. 888-746-1799. www.broadwaysf.com
PHOTO CREDIT: MATTHEW MURPHY FOR MURPHY MADE
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