Broadway in Cincinnati’s “Jagged Little Pill:” A Deconstruction of Suburban Families and Jukebox Musicals
By Nathan Top
Jukebox musicals rarely have a great story. More often than not, the concept of a jukebox musical revolves around guiding viewers through an unrewarding narrative so that some famous songs can get sung on stage. That is fine for those who like those types of shows. However, Jagged Little Pill is an exception to that rule.
The Plot of Jagged Little Pill
“Jagged” tells the tale of Mary Jane Healy ( MJ), a wife and mother in suburban Connecticut balancing her marriage to workaholic Steve and raising her children, rebellious activist Frankie and golden-boy Nick. Simultaneously, MJ has an opioid addiction that is becoming more and more insatiable. As the unmanageability takes over, MJ is forced to reconcile with a past she had buried and address the underlying family issues in the present, haunted by a Greek chorus of 90’s alternative rock dancers. With a Tony-winning script by Diablo Cody (“Juno,” “Ricki and the Flash”) and music by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, “Jagged” explores themes of healing, trauma, and social change.
Adorned with Broadway credits, Heidi Blickenstaff is usually the pulsating heart of the show as the raw and layered matriarch Mary Jane. However, understudy Bligh Voth filled in in this performance and is equally powerful. Her feature “Uninvited” is evocative and soul-stirring with incredible acting as well as the demanding vocal runs idiomatic with Morrissette’s music. Also nailing the vocally athletic score is Lauren Chanel as Frankie, who’s duet with Rishi Golani (Phoenix) on “Ironic” is as memorable in the show as is on the original album.
Chris Hoch and Dillon Klena as Steve and Nick Healy respectively have incredible chemistry with their counterparts in the show and Allison Sheppard gives a beautifully empathetic performance as Bella, a traumatized high schooler whom Frankie befriends.
The most iconic songs in the show are given to Jade McLeod playing Jo, a passionate social advocate and love interest of Frankie. Their numbers “Hand in My Pocket” and “You Oughta Know” are the two biggest showstoppers of the night, transforming the jukebox musical to a partial rock concert.
Director Diane Paulus has created a balanced and engaging show, deftly adjusting the tone as necessary between the kitchen-sink drama and the MTV-flavored musical numbers. The music never takes over the story, which moves at a captivating pace for a show just over two and a half hours.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s choreography creates an exquisite flow for the entire show, especially his work with the chorus, all dressed in costume designer Emily Rebholz’s incredible 90’s grunge costumes. Scenic designer Riccardo Hernandez, lighting designer Justin Townsend, and video designer Lucy Mackinnion’s work swirls with perfect synergy with the set design, balancing the rock concert and family drama to create a cohesive, occasionally immersive experience for the audience.
Musical director, conductor, and keyboardist Matt Doebler has created some glowing vocal numbers with the cast and on-stage pit. The pit is tight, transparent, and occasionally very loud, matching the drama taking place on stage.
Get Tickets to Jagged Little Pill
Broadway in Cincinnati’s Jagged Little Pill has everything one would want with a jukebox musical: an iconic score, engaging story, and a stunning cast and crew to perform it. Running now through April 2nd, tickets can be purchased here.