Jagged Little Pill @ The Paramount

A huge soap opera in stage form 💊

Character Nick Healy onstage surrounded by ensemble lit up in blue. They all lean in singing to him while he spreads his hands, overwhelmed
NOV 8-13

📸: Jagged Little Pill

Runs November 8 – 13

Jukebox musicals, which use preexisting songs instead of an original score, are probably the easiest way to rake in money on Broadway and national tours. They tend to come in two varieties. You’ve got your rags-to-riches biomusicals (Jersey Boys, Ain’t Too Proud, Beautiful, On Your Feet!, TINA, The Cher Show). Then you have ones that fit fictional narratives, like Xanadu (Electric Light Orchestra), Head Over Heels (The Go-Go’s), All Shook Up (Elvis Presley), Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (disco disco disco!), 42nd Street (Al Dubin/Johnny Mercer/Harry Warren), and everybody’s mother’s favorite musical, Mamma Mia! (ABBA).

They can be very hit or miss. Frankly, there are more misses than hits. A lot of them are lazy.

At least with Jagged Little Pill, which runs November 8-13 at the Paramount, you can’t accuse it of phoning it in. Oscar- and Tony-winning writer Diablo Cody (Juno) and director Diane Paulus (Waitress, 1776) cram 23 Alanis Morrissette songs into a story about one really intense family, hitting on pill addiction, marriage counseling, high school bisexuality, sexual assault, and much, much more. And all of this happens in front of a massive ensemble cast who interpretive dances to the chaos every few minutes.

If you just wondered, “Wait, Alanis’ 1995 album Jagged Little Pill only has 13 tracks,” don’t fret—you’re not getting old. (Although, maybe.) Like American Idiot (the Green Day rock musical that added bits from 21st Century Breakdown and Nimrod), additional songs come from albums across the Canadian singer/songwriter’s career. There’s Under Rug Swept, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, and one little ditty from the 1998 Nic Cage/Meg Ryan angel weepy City of Angels (don’t pretend you don’t know at least three songs from that soundtrack).

On paper, it shouldn’t work. And yet, this deliriously overstuffed musical with enough content for five shows pulls it off through velocity, earnestness, and chutzpah. It’s imperfect and goofy, but if you want to serve up a huge soap opera in stage form, might as well score it to all the albums I raged and cried through in middle and high school.

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Marcus Gorman

Marcus Gorman is a Seattle-based playwright and film programmer. He once raised money for a synagogue by marathoning 15 Adam Sandler movies in one weekend. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter @marcus_gorman.