That 90s Show – a review of “Jagged Little Pill”

Mike Buzzelli

By Michael Buzzelli

On the outside, the Healy family looks perfect, but you oughta know that Mary Jane Healy ( Heidi Blickenstaff) has a secret. She’s addicted to pain medication, but she is not the only member of the Healy family in crises in Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill.”

Mary Jane’s oxycodone addiction isn’t much of a secret. Pill is in the title. It’s not even the first family secret to come forward.  Every member of the family is harboring deep darks. The perfect family is far from perfect. Isn’t that ironic, don’tcha think?

Her hubby, Steve (Chris Hoch) is addicted his job and online porn.

Her adopted daughter Frankie (Lauren Chanel) has a girlfriend,  Jo (Jade McLeod) and later, a boyfriend, Phoenix (Rishi Golani). She’s a biracial, bisexual.

Her biological son, Nick (Dillon Klena) watched his bestie rape a girl, Bella (Allison Sheppard), at a kegger.

“Jagged Little Pill” is about opioid addiction, rape, bisexuality, and more.  If former Vice President Mike Pence was pissed at “Hamilton,” “Pill” would have caused his cranium to explode, blowing that housefly clean off his forehead.

You can watch a clip here.

“Jagged Little Pill” has some terrific moments for a Jukebox musical, but there’s a lot going on.

Side note: A Jukebox musical is a musical where the songs were written first and shoehorned into a story, from “Rock of Ages” to “Mama Mia!” Much of the story is trying to wrap itself around the lyrics , instead of the other way around.

There is, however, a fantastic moment when Frankie has to get up and read her poem in English class and the other students critique it. Each kid lists reasons why a particular song doesn’t work. It’s a wonder Morissette didn’t get this feedback from studio execs when she recorded the song.

Book writer Diablo Cody (“Juno”) bites off more than she can chew, and I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. Cody’s script has a muddled plot, but the dialogue sparkles. She perfectly captures the Yuppie zeitgeist with the first serving of Paleo Pancakes with agave syrup.

The storyline is overstuffed, but the cast is dynamic. They sing and dance with exuberance.

Additional side note about the dancing: The cast is coming straight for you. They sing directly at the audience most of the time. One local theater goer described it as “whole damn show was blocked center and center front. Sixty-five percent of the numbers were face-out-park-and-barks.”

But Blickenstaff knocks it out of the park with her rendition of the title track.

McLeod’s gender swapped version of “You Oughtta Know” is fantastic. One of the show’s many highlights.

While Lucy Mackinnon’s video design had some kinks in the first few minutes of the Pittsburgh premiere, it added so much texture to the story.

Costume Designer Emily Rebholz’s quintessential grunge was, literally and figuratively, pure Nirvana.

If you love Alanis Morissette’s eponymous album, you will love the musical.  If you’re not familiar with Morissette, her music, or your TV is in resting bitch face on Fox News, avoid it like the plague – like the one you didn’t believe we just had.

While it had a few flaws, you will walk out feeling joyful, and probably singing a Morissette song all the way home.

What it all comes down to, my friend, is that everything’s gonna be quite all right. Get one hand in your pocket, and one hand holding a ticket.

– MB

“Jagged Little Pill” runs through January 29 at the Benedum Center, Seventh Street and Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For tickets and additional information, click here

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