Has Alanis Morissette Made the Most Woke Musical Since ‘Hair’?
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Everyone seems to have a story about hearing Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” for the very first time. The writer Diablo Cody was listening to the radio when a D.J. said, “This particular can be going to be huge.” The composer Tom Kitt was in college, feeling like the whole world had stopped. I was a kid who got grounded for accidentally saying the F-word while singing along to “You Oughta Know.”
The album’s parade of fearlessly raw hits was as integral to ’90s pop culture as AOL promo disks as well as Doc Martens. Its success vindicated Ms. Morissette, who was previously rejected by radio stations saying they didn’t need another woman after Sinead O’Connor as well as Tori Amos. “For those inside the patriarchy who thought women were not bankable,” she recalled in a recent interview, “that will went out the window.”
today Ms. Morissette’s trailblazing 1995 album can be taking on brand-new life: as theater. as well as don’t expect a fun, nostalgic jukebox musical about the ’90s. “Jagged Little Pill,” which opens at the American Repertory Theater here on May 24, can be very much of the present as well as may just be the most woke musical since “Hair.”
The show tackles hot-button issues like opiate addiction, gender identity as well as sexual assault, as well as more quietly urgent ones like transracial adoption, marital bed death as well as image-consciousness. This particular also contains imagery through the Women’s March as well as the #NeverAgain gun-control movement. Picture a pageant of liberalism, with your favorite ’90s songs as the soundtrack.
“Alanis’s songs were written 23 years ago,” said Mr. Kitt, the production’s music supervisor as well as the composer of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Next to Normal.” “although they feel like they were written yesterday. These are all human issues that will we’ve been dealing with for years.”
To pull off what may risk coming off as heavy-handed, American Repertory has assembled a team of A-list collaborators in addition to Mr. Kitt as well as Ms. Morissette: the Tony Award-winning Diane Paulus, the company’s artistic director; the choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui; as well as Ms. Cody, the screenwriter of “Juno” fame,” who wrote the book. (The unsung hero, they all said, can be Lily, a French bulldog puppy that will has become the production’s de facto therapy dog.)
“When you’re dealing with an album that will has such meaning for people, you have to respect that will,” Ms. Paulus said. “We know people are going to expect some sonic universe as well as emotion. although if we do our job right, people are going to think: I’ve never heard these songs like This particular.”
The songs, which also include Morissette tracks outside “Jagged Little Pill,” are convincingly theatrical inside the context of the musical, which may be a surprise considering the material comes through two outsiders; Ms. Cody didn’t even take an academic stab at dramatic writing while growing up, she said.
“I don’t think I ever had the confidence in my younger years to say I could tell a story on the stage,” she said. “I was never an assured creator. I didn’t think I had anything to contribute.”
although Ms. Cody’s book for “Jagged Little Pill” — which strips away the picture-perfect veneer of a Connecticut family over the course of a year — can be unapologetically on brand: by turns bitingly satirical, touching as well as frank. In fact, This particular may even be a more honest reflection of her writerly mind than we typically get onscreen.
“I come through a world of parent companies as well as advertisers as well as suits as well as caution,” she said. “If I want to express a belief of my own, I’m asked to temper This particular to ensure that will we don’t alienate anyone. This particular can be the opposite.”
If there can be anything keeping Ms. Cody’s book in check, This particular’s the music itself. although part of her task has been to twist the poetic ambiguity of Ms. Morissette’s lyrics inside the service of an original story. that will means framing “Mary Jane” as a husband’s whisper over his wife’s hospital bed, or “One Hand in My Pocket” as musical theater’s prototypical “I want” song.
although sometimes the production leaves Ms. Morissette’s cherished music alone: The staging for “You Oughta Know,” sung by the scene-stealing Lauren Patten, can be so spare This particular could just as easily be an intimate concert. (At the performance I attended last week, Ms. Patten’s “You Oughta Know” stopped the show which has a minutes-long standing ovation. I was told that will This particular has been happening every night since previews began on May 5.)
“Ironic” can be sung inside the context of a high school writing workshop as well as the scene makes a joke through the elephant inside the room: decades of pedants nit-picking the song’s misuse of the word “ironic.”
“I’m probably laughing the hardest inside the audience,” Ms. Morissette said, adding that will when she worked on the song with the songwriter as well as producer Glen Ballard, “we didn’t give a [expletive] about the malapropism.”
She also didn’t think many people might even hear This particular. although once “Ironic” became a hit, there were entire website forums dedicated to shaming the song as well as — in true internet fashion — thinking of ways to murder Ms. Morissette.
“I naïvely thought fame might be me kumbaya-ing with Johnny Depp lying on my lap at a campfire as well as Sharon Stone offering me a drink,” she said. “This particular was the complete opposite, totally isolating. I just stopped reading any comments.”
The vibe behind the scenes of the musical can be, like its material, inclusive as well as socially aware. Early inside the rehearsal process Ms. Paulus asked everyone inside the cast to give a presentation on a topic through the show. Celia Gooding (the daughter of the current Tony nominee LaChanze) — who plays the queer, protest sign-toting daughter Frankie — spoke about colorism, a form of discrimination based on skin coloring that will transcends race. as well as Elizabeth Stanley (“On the Town”), who plays her mother, chose to research transracial adoption.
“Everyone shared truly vulnerable personal stories,” Ms. Stanley said. “This particular forced us as a company to be gentle with each different.”
Members of the cast as well as crew have also been one another’s shoulder to lean on amid what Ms. Paulus called “the last two years of major trauma in America,” which shaped “Jagged Little Pill” throughout development. Some material has even gone straight through headlines to the stage, like a sobering moment in “All I truly Want” when the song suddenly stops — leaving the audience with the tableau of Frankie holding up a #NeverAgain against a backdrop of images through the Parkland student protests.
Ms. Paulus’s inspiration for moments like This particular can be “Hair,” which she directed for Shakespeare inside the Park, as well as later Broadway, nearly a decade ago.
“They were reflecting in real time what was happening inside the planet,” she said of that will show’s original production, in 1967. “Guys were getting their draft cards delivered to the stage door; This particular was that will real.”
With that will in mind, the variation of “Jagged Little Pill” I saw could change tomorrow. This particular could even be a different show if This particular were staged on Broadway, as many of her American Repertory productions are.
“I feel like theater can be all about the present,” Ms. Paulus said. “When as well as if we get another shot at This particular inside the future, I’m sure things will change.”
although, she was quick to emphasize, any revisions based on current events might have to take their lead through Ms. Morissette’s music as well as lyrics — which, she added, actually provide a hopeful outlook inside the age of bleak push notifications.
“The pain as well as anger of my songs are all on This particular spectrum,” Ms. Morissette said. “The darker the song can be, the more that will wish can be just This particular pilot light that will was there the whole time.”