You’ll Fall “Head Over Feet” for Broadway Across Canada’s Jagged Little Pill.
ABOVE: Jade McLeod in Broadway Across Canada's production of Jagged Little Pill. (Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade)
In 2022 multi-award-winning singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette headlined at RBC Bluesfest, her first performance in over a decade in her hometown. Now, a year later, the musical titled after her Grammy Award-winning album Jagged Little Pill had its Ottawa premiere at the National Arts Centre.
Tony Award-winning Broadway Across Canada is the foremost presenter of first-class touring productions in North America. Musicals that have previously come to town are adaptations of well-known stories from history like Hamilton and Come From Away or beloved Disney stories like Alladin and The Lion King but not here. In this case, fans were attracted by Morissette's connection to Ottawa and her music that dominated the airwaves in the 90s.
Prior to Alanis Morissette, female artists had belted out “angry” songs, but Jagged Little Pill (Maverick) was an entire album of deeply personal, hurtful, and cathartic songs. The musical is a tribute to all those sentiments but through the lens of a 2020s family and their modern-day issues.
Based on the book by Diablo Cody, with music by Alanis Morissette, and extra songs by Glen Ballard, the musical tells the story of a loving yet dysfunctional suburban family that loves but is not loving, that cares but is not really supportive, and that tries to understand but doesn’t really know.
The first act introduces the cast, including the characters that make up the Healy family. Steve Healy (Chris Hoch) is your stereotypical father who works too much; his wife Mary Jane (MJ) (Heidi Blickenstaff) is the glue that holds the family together; son Nick (Dilon Klena) is your average American jock who is put on a pedestal by his adoring parents; sister Frankie (Lauren Chanel) is adopted and struggles to fit into the rigid family structure.
The show is directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (Waitress, Pippin, upcoming 1776), who does a great job of addressing contemporary social issues and family dilemmas. In fact, the performance makes a great stepping-off point for family discussions about teenage sex, date rape, gender, and drug addiction.
The acting is solid. Heidi Blickenstaff channels just enough Jennifer Coolidge to bring laughs to even the most serious topics. Cast member and one of only two Canadians in the production, Jena VanElslander is unbelievable as MJ’s avatar during the singing of Uninvited. Her movements are worthy of their own modern dance performance and recall the incredible Montreal troupe from the 90s, La La La Human Steps.
Other standout performances include fellow Canadian cast member Jade McLeod, who blew the audience away with their rendition of Hands in My Pocket and again with the hit You Oughta Know. Tall and slim with long wavy hair and incredible pipes, the audience could be forgiven if they mistakenly took McLeod for the progeny of Morissette herself.
By the end of the evening, the Healy family is not yet perfect, but each member is better equipped to face any challenges that might lie ahead.
The song You Learn closed the show and launched the audience out of their seats in applause. Despite being the music of GenX, the humour, and content is very relatable, and younger audiences will thoroughly enjoy everything about Jagged Little Pill. That being said, the subject matter is mature, and this reviewer wouldn’t recommend it for children under the age of 13 years.
With the opening night's success, tickets for the remaining four days of Jagged Little Pill will go quickly. Get your tickets by clicking on this link.
Four-show season packages for Broadway Across Canada's 25th season start at $215.00 and are available as of Thursday, June 1, at 10 a.m.
Broadway Across Canada subscriptions can be purchased at BroadwayAcrossCanada.ca or by calling 1.844.985.2787.