Photo by Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
I’ll be honest with you, I was cracking jokes all the way up until the lights went down at the gorgeous Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Things like, “Why does Alanis Morissette have her own musical? She’s not even dead yet.” and “Who asked for this?”. I know these are harsh thoughts but that’s where my head was at as my friend and I found our seats. I mean, come on, am I wrong? I feel like I knew Alanis Morissette’s music when walking into the theatre but it never left an impression on me strong enough to think that her 1995 album ‘Jagged Little Pill’ needed its own musical. Looking back, I take back all of those things I said. By the time I left the theatre, I was truly moved and even this morning, I still had Alanis’ music stuck in my head both due to the catchiness but also the impression that the performance on Tuesday night left me with.
First, a little background on Alanis Morissette (whether you need it or not). Alanis is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter known for her raw voice and even more raw lyrics. With a sense of alt-rock and grunge hidden in her commercialized hits, Alanis’ music seemed to move an entire generation back in the 90s. Unfortunately, I wasn’t part of that generation. I remember hearing her music when growing up and just not getting it. It felt too mature, too somber but now, in my mid-30s and after seeing her words be put to dance and performance, I feel like it hits just a wee bit too close to home. Alanis has put out ten albums including her newest release which came out last year, ‘The Storm Before the Calm’. What I’m trying to convey with that little tidbit is that, although the majority of us may think of her as just a 90s powerhouse, she has continued doing her thing since then.
Although the title of the musical is ‘Jagged Little Pill’ (again, in reference to her hit 1995 album by the same name which went on to win her the Grammy award for album of the year in 1996), the performance contained more than just songs from said album. It had songs from her 1998 album ‘Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, tracks from 2002’s ‘Under Rug Swept’ and a smattering of other tracks from her storied career. Long story short, it was a night full of music that I both recognized and had never heard before but the story was more than familiar.
Here’s where it gets a bit confusing and it honestly took me a second to wrap my head around this– this musical is not based on Alanis’ life. I’m sure there were some nods to her actual life throughout the performance but it’s more of a musical where her music was used to form a story. That being said, it was a convincing story that touched on more subjects than I have time to list. Instead of trying to list some of them while leaving others out, let’s just say that this musical is about real life. It’s about the workaholic dad, the mom who tries to be perfect, the son who is perfect but has a secret, and a rebellious daughter just trying her best to get through her teenage years. If you can really sit there and tell me that you can’t relate to any of these things, well, you’re probably lying to yourself but I digress.
The storyline, as real as it was on its own, was truly felt throughout the audience due to the performances of all of the actors involved in the musical. Obviously, standouts included Lauren Chanel who played Frankie Healy, Heidi Blickenstaff who played Mary Jane Healy (aka MJ), and Jade McLeod who played Jo but there wasn’t a single person on that stage on Tuesday that didn’t deserve to be up there. Even the members of the chorus all had a purpose for being on that stage and played their parts brilliantly.
The balance between talking and song throughout the evening was spot on. Although I love musicals, I do prefer ones that are not just sung the whole time. I feel like ‘Jagged Little Pill’ found that perfect level between singing and storyline and took it one step further with how brilliantly the music fit into the storyline. Don’t get me wrong, I know that all music tells a story in some way or another but there was just something so ingenious and radiant about the way these songs were re-imagined to fit the story of a normal year in the life of a fairly typical family.
When it came to the songs, there were plenty of stand-out moments that really showcased the talent on stage but it was when Jade McLeod (performing as Jo) sang the hit song “You Oughta Know” that I felt every hair on my neck and arms stand straight up. I’m not going to give away that part of the performance as it was a truly pivotal moment in the storyline but it was truly a jaw-dropping performance that had a few people in the audience shooting out of their chairs afterward. Honestly, there were many moments like that throughout the performance where I felt like everyone in the audience was left with this urge to shoot up from their seats and just start clapping, whistling, hooting, and hollering.
Prior to Tuesday night, I never would have called myself a fan of Alanis Morissette. I cracked so many jokes leading up to the performance and I honestly spent my day wondering if going to see Jagged Little Pill was really how I wanted to spend my evening. After experiencing (not just seeing) this beautiful and powerful musical, I couldn’t imagine anywhere else I would have rather been on Tuesday night.
To the entire cast and all of the people behind the scenes of Jagged Little Pill– Bravo. I say it again, BRAVO.