On Broadway, 'Jagged Little Pill' Reimagines Alanis Morissette's Opus For 2019 The 1995 hit album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette is now a musical on Broadway. We talk with show creators Diablo Cody and Diane Paulus for a sneak preview.
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The Angst Of The '90s Is Alive On Broadway

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The Angst Of The '90s Is Alive On Broadway

The Angst Of The '90s Is Alive On Broadway

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

"Jagged Little Pill," Alanis Morissette's 1995 breakthrough album, spoke to the angst of a whole generation. That album is now having its Broadway moment and connecting to the rage of a whole new audience. NPR's Denise Guerra spoke with the show's creators and got a sneak preview.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALANIS MORISSETTE SONG, "YOU LEARN")

DENISE GUERRA, BYLINE: Diablo Cody was a teenager in suburban Chicago when she first heard "Jagged Little Pill."

DIABLO CODY: I spent the entire summer kind of screaming along to those songs in my car when it came out. It was just irresistible to me.

GUERRA: Cody is the Oscar-winning writer behind the movies "Juno" and "Young Adult." To write her first musical, she went back to the tracks on "Jagged Little Pill."

CODY: You know, a song like "You Learn" has this line in there about how, you know, I recommend biting off more than you can chew. And I still feel that way. And this show is proof of that (laughter). It's definitely more than I can handle.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU LEARN")

ALANIS MORISETTE: (Singing) Swallow it down...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU LEARN")

ELIZABETH STANLEY: (Singing) What a jagged little pill. It feels so good...

DEREK KLENA: (Singing) Swimming in your stomach.

GUERRA: The musical is not about Alanis Morissette. Instead, it takes inspiration from the album to tell a story about new characters. The Healys are a picture-perfect American family. They look happy and successful, but privately, they are a mess. Dad's an overworked lawyer. The son struggles to please everyone. There's a rebellious adopted daughter. And there's mom, Mary Jane, played by an evocative Elizabeth Stanley.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FORGIVEN")

STANLEY: (Singing) I never forgot it, confusing as it was.

GUERRA: Mary Jane is coping with the trauma of a past sexual assault. To deal with it, she developed an addiction to painkillers. She's described as, quote, "one salad from a psychotic break." But she's the image of self-control. That control is tested when a young girl in her community is attacked.

DIANE PAULUS: I think sometimes, with trauma, we can sit on it for years.

GUERRA: That's Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus.

PAULUS: That's what we've learned through the #MeToo movement that has become so in our zeitgeist now - that you can have had a trauma 20 years ago, and it can live inside you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FORGIVEN")

STANLEY: (Singing) I will suffer the consequence of this inquisition.

GUERRA: The musical first ran last year at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. But there are key changes made for Broadway. Paulus explains one pivotal scene depicting the young girl's sexual assault. Back in Cambridge...

PAULUS: Sometimes, we'd finish the number, and people would start applauding. We cannot have applause there. It's this really devastating thing that's happening. And I know people are applauding, like, the virtuosity of the performance.

GUERRA: In the Broadway version, the scene is performed with a strobe-light effect, resulting in only glimpses of the assault.

PAULUS: That was deliberate to have the audience go, this is real what's happening to her.

GUERRA: "Jagged Little Pill" is not just about sexual assault. Characters outside the Healy family are also going through pain.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU OUGHTA KNOW")

LAUREN PATTEN: (Singing) I want you to know...

GUERRA: The character Joanne, or she prefers to be called, Jo, has her heart broken by Mary Jane's daughter. In one of the best scenes of the night, she sings Morissette's iconic anthem "You Oughta Know" and had the audiences pumping their fists and dancing in their seats.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU OUGHTA KNOW")

PATTEN: (Singing) And I'm here to remind you of the mess you left when you went away.

GUERRA: Actor Lauren Patten sings it with harrowing ferocity.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU OUGHTA KNOW")

PATTEN: (Singing) It's not fair to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave to me. You, you, you ought to know.

GUERRA: While culturally relevant, the musical attempts to tackle too many issues, something writer Diablo Cody acknowledges.

CODY: It really is, like, Hashtag: The Musical. And I'm proud of that because it's so much. We have the opioid epidemic, the crazy political stuff that's happening, global warming, I mean, #MeToo - all of it.

GUERRA: If all this seems like a lot, the show's creators are here to remind you of the mess and chaos that they felt in the 1990s and that we're all still feeling it today.

Denise Guerra, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEAD OVER FEET")

CELIA ROSE GOODING AND ANTONIO CIPRIANO: (Singing) And don't be surprised if I love you...

CELIA ROSE GOODING: (Singing) ...For all that you are.

ANTONIO CIPRIANO, CELIA ROSE GOODING, SEAN ALLAN KRILL AND ELIZABETH STANLEY: (Singing) I couldn't help it. It's all your fault.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The audio of this story, as did a previous Web version, identifies a scene with strobe lights as depicting a sexual assault. That scene depicts a drug overdose.]

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