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You Oughta See: The National Tour of Jagged Little Pill The Musical

You live, you learn.

I spent the first weekend in June travelling to Ottawa, Ontario to see a performance of the National Tour of Jagged Little Pill at the National Arts Centre.

This tour was actually the musical’s Canadian premiere, a homecoming of sorts, as the show is set around the music of Alanis Morisette, who was born and raised in Ottawa. In addition to Morissette’s music, which was arranged and orchestrated by Tom Kitt, the show has a book by Diablo Cody and was directed by Diane Paulus.

Jagged Little Pill centres on the Healy family: MJ and Steve and their teenage children Frankie and Nick. The Healy’s appear to be the picture perfect family in their competitive Connecticut suburban neighbourhood. Yet pictures can be deceiving. Each family member is struggling with their own challenges and the pressure they feel from each other and their community as they try to move forward and heal.

I was so impressed by Jagged Little Pill, as it has one of the best books of a musical I’ve seen.

The show carries a lot of heavy topics such as drug addiction, sexual assault, and discussions about racism, sexuality and gender identity. It can feel like a lot at once to an audience member, especially if you’re expecting an Alanis jukebox musical. But to me, this is what makes it so impressive.

Without spoiling the show, I think most audience members have either experienced something similar to at least what one of the characters is going through, or know someone who has. However, for those who may not have had these conversations or experiences, the jukebox musical format is a powerful equalizer. Alanis Morrisette’s popular tunes connect the audience to each other and to the characters onstage regardless of their own life experiences.

I also liked that while the show has a satisfying conclusion, not everything is resolved by the end of the show. In life, things don’t always get a full resolution, sometimes it’s just a start towards something better.

Choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, this show takes use of movement and dance as a medium for storytelling to a whole new level. So often in musical theatre, dance is used for spectacle - which is something I love - but I found Jagged’s choreography to be innovative and refreshing. One of my favourite choreographed moments in the show was the number Uninvited, which has become one of my favourite movement based musical moments.

We were very lucky to attend a performance to see several fabulous understudies, including Bligh Voth as Mary Jane Healy, Elaine Watson as Frankie Healy, and Sergio Pasquariello as Steve Healy in addition to principal cast members Dillon Klena as Nick Healy, Jade McLeod as Jo, and Allison Sheppard as Bella.

Leading the show as Mary Jane Healy was Bligh Vogh, who’s beautiful vulnerability brings the audience through her character’s journey with addiction, trauma, and healing. Her performance is awe-inspiring, powerful and left me at a loss for words.

Canada’s Jade McLeod is giving a tour de force performance in the role of Jo. They give a nuanced performance, grounded in the show’s dark humour. They expertly navigate a journey which takes them from Hand In My Pocket to You Oughta Know, and the latter is a show-stopping achievement.

Jagged Little Pill is an intricate, vulnerable, powerful show.

If you’re familiar with me, you know that I generally prefer musicals which are lighter when it comes to subject matter, but the level of detail involved with the book of this show is what makes it a true triumph and I enjoyed every minute.

The show’s tagline is “Some shows you see, this show you feel”, which is true, but I would say that this is a musical which makes you think.

I would definitely recommend this show to anyone looking for a night out at the theatre that will stick with you for a long time, but would advise looking into the show’s trigger warnings ahead of time.

You can catch the national tour of Jagged Little Pill in a city near you by following the link below:

And for my Canadian readers, the show will be at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre this fall from October 24th to November 26th, with more information here:

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