Thursday, November 11, 2021

Jagged Little Pill (Broadway)


The Healy’s are what everyone in Connecticut considers to be the perfect family. Mary Jane (Heidi Blickenstaff) is the enviable supermom keeping the family together. Steve (Sean Allan Krill) is the big shot corporate guy getting big bonuses and one promotion right after another. Nicholas (Derek Klena) is the overachiever son who has multiple swimming championship medals and just got admitted to Harvard. Frankie (Morgan Dudley) is the adopted African American daughter who is saved from being homeless and unloved. But these are all superficial, for they all have their own quirks lingering just below the surface waiting to boil over. MJ is struggling with a secret reliance on opiates. Steve is sex-deprived and has an ongoing porn addiction. Nick is going through the ups and downs of the classic golden child syndrome. And Frankie feels unloved and unable to fit in, even in her very own adoptive family.

Dude, that extended standing ovation after Lauren Patten as Jo performed “You Oughta Know” in the second act! She basically turned it into her own personal Alanis tribute concert. The crowd went totally nuts. It took a while for everyone to eventually calm down. So apparently, that’s how watching a Tony-award winning actor in a Tony-award winning performance looks, sounds, and feels like. It was quite insane. My body was suddenly shookt wide awake from its 36-hour sleep deprivation. Good thing I muscled through today.

But let’s not deprive the rest of the cast of the kudos that they all deserve, despite Patten giving all of them a run for their money. The girls came in particularly strong. Blickenstaff on the helm as MJ was sustaining her long notes with intensity when needed be, which jived well with the anguish her character was going through. Dudley’s enunciation is crystal clear, her vocal quality, divine. Kathryn Gallagher as rape survivor Bella, although relegated to supporting, came from behind in the second act as her character’s subplot gained momentum.

The boys were alright. Klena seemed to be lacking a bit of energy in the first few numbers but bounced back eventually. Krill had the right vocal chops, although some of the Alanis song lyrics that went to his character were a little bit awkward. Roy as the new Phoenix held his own against Dudley, and the blending of their voices in their duets were as harmonious as a lullaby. And of course, the Swing and the Orchestra, who seemed to be working overtime to me, managed to sustain their energy levels for almost three hours. Amazing.

As for the writing, the dialogues are dripping in what is unmistakably Diablo Cody’s sarcasm. Sure, she has had her hits and misses in Hollywood, but this book she has written for Jagged Little Pill is definitely a hit. Now she has writing wins in both the Oscars and the Tonys that she can brag about, and rightfully so because she has earned it. Her dry wit evident in the one-liners just mesh so well with the angst of Morissette’ lyrics, breathed new life with the enviable vocals of the cast. Yes, we are all-raves here.

As for the subject matter, prevalent themes tackled include rape, white privilege, racism, drug dependence. You know, the usual stuff that often get dismissed nowadays as too woke. It’s a good thing we are on Broadway, and most people you meet here from the crew to the audience are open-minded liberal thinkers. I totally understand where people threatened by social movements like this are coming from, but a paradigm shift is never achieved overnight.

Instead of thinking that Hollywood and Broadway have agendas to push, perhaps we should just reconsider the fact that despite being repeatedly barraged by such challenges to the status quo, not enough is being done to actually push strong enough to actually see that change. If we have to be reminded over and over again on TV, the big screen, and onstage, then so be it. Perhaps it is too late for us and the older generation, but at least a new generation is getting prepped for that change we might not end up seeing in our lifetime. At least they don’t have to go through the same BS when their time comes.

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