'Jagged Little Pill' uses Alanis Morissette's music to tell one family's story
Alanis Morissette was only 20 when she released the iconic album “Jagged Little Pill” in 1995, an album that would top the charts in 13 countries and make Morissette at that time the youngest artist ever to win an Album of the Year Grammy.
It’s one of the reasons Rishi Golani thinks the music continues to have such an appeal to young people 28 years later as they get introduced to it through the musical “Jagged Little Pill.” The show is coming to East Lansing’s Wharton Center from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5.
“Even though the music was written awhile ago, it was written from the perspective of a 19 year old,” said Golani, who plays the part of Phoenix in the musical’s first national tour. “I find that to be insane that someone so young can be so profound.”
Golani said that while Morissette may have lacked life experience and some of the themes may have been somewhat immature, her music was very real and captured things that everyone can relate to.
“Every single human has this notion that they want to be something greater and to be free,” Golani said. “Everyone’s trying to find their purpose in life. That’s a theme that has existed since the beginning of our entire species. That’s so relevant no matter how old you are.”
The musical uses songs from the album to tell the story of a middle-class family of four — a mother with a painkiller addiction, a father addicted to pornography, a son dealing with the assault of his girlfriend and a daughter coming to terms with her sexuality. It starts with the mother, MaryJane, writing a Christmas letter and follows the family through a year of their lives.
“The story is super important because it reflects the life of a lot of people in this country,” Golani said. “It takes place in Connecticut and it’s the story of this family that is middle class and white and their daughter is this adopted Black girl. It’s about a family that looks fine, but in reality, is quite broken.”
The tour features Heidi Blickenstaff, who played the role on Broadway before the pandemic forced it to close in December 2021. Other lead performers include Lauren Chanel as Frankie, Chris Hoch as Steve, Dillon Klena as Nick, Jade McLeon as Jo and Allison Sheppard as Bella.
The music is a combination of songs from the album of the same name (“You Oughta Know,” “Hand in My Pocket,” “You Learn” and “Ironic” among others), songs from later albums (“Thank U,” “So Pure,” “So Unsexy” and “Unprodigal Daughter” among others) and two new songs (“Smiling” and “Predator.”)
Golani said he recognizes some people might be undecided about going to see “Jagged Little Pill” either because they love Morissette but aren’t sure about watching a musical, or they love musicals but are lukewarm about jukebox musicals. He has a message for them.
“You should just go and do it,” Golani said. “You’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy and how much you learn from it. Just like our finale, the song ‘You Learn.’ That’s the whole point of musicals and art in general is to learn something and to reflect. So if anyone’s on the fence, just go and do it.”
If you go
What: “Jagged Little Pill” the musical
Where: Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center
When: Jan. 31 to Feb. 5
Tickets: From $39, whartoncenter.com
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Jagged Little Pill, feature Alanis Morissette's work, comes to Wharton