From Boston to Broadway: Jagged Little Pill

I’d been very nervous but also very excited to see the Broadway transfer of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. I’d driven up with a girlfriend to Boston in July 2018 to see JLP at ART in Boston and we loved it there. It had it’s problems with the book, sure, but overall I really loved it. By pure chance, I ended up befriending a woman in the cast and in summer 2019, she’d told me that they were really working on tightening up the book. I was thrilled to hear that because the book was all over the place in Boston and was probably the weakest aspect of the show.

I’d been reading the threads on BroadwayWorld’s message board about the previews and how they were going and some people were loving it, but a lot were talking still about the problems with the book and the lack of character development. So I thought maybe they hadn’t really tightened up the book at all.

Safe to say that my expectations were somewhat lowered when I saw Jagged Little Pill at the Broadhurst Theatre in December 2019.

The show is still really lively and empowering and inspiring and if I was a teenager now, I’d be totally in love with it. It would be my Rent. However, unlike Rent, the book is extremely problematic. The armchair critics of BroadwayWorld weren’t wrong when they said there was no character development. When Bella (played by Kathryn Gallagher) is allegedly assaulted, we’ve spent almost no time with her so why is she now trotted out to be a main character of interest? We probably spent the most time with Elizabeth Stanley, the cliched drug-addicted housewife Mary Jane. Celia Gose Gooding as Stanley’s daughter Frankie, is woefully underdeveloped or maybe just her character was just a stupid child. I didn’t understand her character’s abrupt dumpling of Jo (played with raw vulnerability by Lauren Patten) and fall head over heels for Phoenix (played by Antonio Cipriano) after a single conversation. It just didn’t make sense.

The audience waited with baited breath for Patten’s show-stopping rendition of You Oughtta Know. This song stopped the show regularly in Boston, so I heard, and it definitely did when I saw it, because it was so unexpected to hear that kind of powerhouse voice come out of this skinny woman. But now that you know it’s coming, it felt a little forced to have another 5 minute standing ovation. She sounds amazing during this song and the raw emotion that she is conveying is so palpable, but part of me felt like the cast (which really didn’t need to make an appearance for this song, thank you) just felt desperate for the ovation after Patten stopped singing.

Derek Klena as the picture perfect son, Nick, and Sean Allan Krill, as his father, were both good enough. I feel like he is capable of a lot more usually but he did the best he could with the material that he was given.

After the two hours and 45 minute show ended (cut 30 minutes, please!), I walked away from the Broadhurst feeling like Diablo Cody had so much promise in Boston but then completely shit the bed when it came to streamlining the book in between Boston and Broadway. Are Tom Kitt’s gorgeous arrangements of Alanis Morissette’s songs worth the price of admission? Probably. But I really just wish we could go back in time and make sure the book was better.

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