National Tour Review: JAGGED LITTLE PILL (Hollywood Pantages)

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by Tony Frankel on September 20, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


You’re going to need more than a pill to relieve your aches after seeing this dreck. From what I’d heard, the Broadway success of Jagged Little Pill, a hyper-woke jukebox musical built around the songs of Alanis Morissette, was a bit of a revelation given the story is about issue-packed angst-ridden millennials and their angst-ridden folks wrapped up in alt-rock tunes. The only revelation at the opening of the national tour at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre is that the terrific Morissette and Glen Ballard songs, including all 13 tracks from her iconic 1995 same-titled album, can be turned in gobbledygook. We have griped about the lousy sound at the Pantages many times, but this one beats ’em all. Lyrics were, for the most part, swallowed up by Matt Doebler‘s way-too-loud band, Sidi Larbi Cheraqui‘s manic movement, and Diane Paulus‘s unfocused direction (although a scene played backward was a coup de théâtre). Had I not known better, I might have thought that this Morissette chick was a hireling, as the essence of her songs goes missing.

But that’s just the start.

Music Arranger Tom Kitt worked with a script by Diablo Cody (Academy Award for her screenplay of Juno) that eerily smacks of his 2008 wonder, Next to Normal. For here we have a privileged Connecticut family that has a pain killer-addicted mom (the excellent Heidi Blickenstaff), which is causing distress with her frustrated lawyer husband (an oddly out-of-place Chris Hock, not helped by the fact that this older man is saddled with lyrics written by a 20-year-old woman), a star athlete son who feels forced to be an overachiever (Dillon Klena), and the misunderstood, bisexual, adopted, Black, sixteen-year-old daughter Frankie (Lauren Chanel), who is sorta seeing out-of-the-closet Jo (Jade McLeod, who steals the show with “You Outta Know” in Act II).

Along the way, a chorus of mostly mixed-race kids (in a suffocatingly white Connecticut suburb? Gimme a break), donning Emily Rebholz‘s weird grungefest boutique costumes, are gonna stare you down and scream about what is wrong with the Establishment (can you say, Rent?). Along the way: Overdose; opioid addiction; rape; pre-teen sex; racism; complicity by inaction; repressed trauma; the #MeToo movement, and plenty more hot button issues — enough to fill a dozen Mother Jones magazines. I’m not even a Conservative and I was slumping down in my seat from embarrassment. Overall, I nearly OD’d on all the little pill plot points. Cody has found plenty of decent dialogue but her construction leaves us confused as to just whose story this is. And if it isn’t silly enough that one family is mixed up in every scandal in town, Cody ties up this messy package with in an improbable little bow at the end. Despite the happy Christmas Card finale, everything is most definitely NOT going to be fine, fine, fine.

photos © Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman

Jagged Little Pill
national tour
at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre until October 2, 2022
for tickets, call 800-982-2787
or visit Hollywood Pantages Theatre
20 more cities are scheduled through August 2023
for dates, visit Jagged Little Pill

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