Jagged Little Pill introduces a new era in musical theatre. Nothing could be more relevant than this contemporary musical which demonstrates current social issues through the inner turmoils and outer conflicts of human souls and the beautiful voices of angels.
I'm not suburban (I live in Kings Cross Sydney) but the suburban issues of a typical 'functional' and high-achieving family resonate from the start in Jagged Little Pill through the annual Christmas letter. We all receive them, don't we? Slowly the happy family and Connecticut friends are unmasked for us to see beyond the Christmas card veneer.
By doing so the darkest depths of Mary Jane Healy and those closest to her are revealed. This is a show that definitely stars the women, which given the songs are written by a contemporary woman singer songer-writer, is not surprising. This blistering musical connects the alternative angst ridden pop rock of Alanis Morrisette and elevates the already poignant meaning of her lyrics. Jagged Little Pill captures all the voices that were once sadly silent but have their say through her lyrics and tunes.
On opening night, midway through the show, the audience rises screaming, applauding, in standing ovation. And while Natalie Bassingthwhaighte as Mary Jane Healy is the deserving headliner of this show, these spontaneous accolades are for (they/them) Maggie McKenna as Jo belting out You Outta Know, the Jagged Little Pill anthem. Throughout their performance Mags gets it, from the timbre in their voice, at times moored, and then undulating, through their stoic stance to animated passion.
Don't get me wrong, Natalie Bassingthwhaighte (she/her) is phenomenal, and even beyond her sensational voice, through her gestures, acting, stage presence, she is the complete package of the star of the show.
In its total, Jagged Little Pill is well cast, Emily Nkomo (she/her) in her musical theatre professional debut gives us a heart touching and enthralling rendition of Frankie Healy, and Grace Miell (she/they) playing Bella encapsulates what is said and goes unsaid in this time, envoking utmost empathy. Love interest Phoenix played by AYDAN (he/him) infatuates us as much as he does Frankie, Liam Head (he/him) embodies the 'perfect' son Nick Healy, and acclaimed film, TV and stage actor and recording artist, Tim Draxl (he/him) doubles as model husband Steve Healy and in his own soul searching expansion.
The live band viewed on mezzanine is tight with the show. Striking primary colour lighting adds more staging impact. Street clothing 'costumes' strengthen the real. Yet, alongside the songs, what impressed me most was the movement and choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui in its unique blend of modern dance, and mobile wheels. The Jagged Little Pill choreography is a most spectacular stage melange of musical show stopping engagement within recent theatre history.
Powerful. Purging. Healing. Meaningful.
One of the best musicals of the last 100 years Jagged Little Pill stands equal in the history of musical theatre, to all those shows of Broadway, the West End and here in Australia, that went before. The Australian production of Jagged Little Pill is performing at the newly refurbished and reopened Theatre Royal Sydney until 19 January 2022 and will return to Sydney 9 July 2022.
“We were told that Australian audiences can be more restrained than their American counterparts. That appears to be incorrect, and it’s been heart-burstingly wonderful to see them rise cheering to their feet every night in tribute to our extraordinary Australian cast and our story of redemption, love and family. We can’t wait to take this crucial story to every corner of your beautiful land. Our gratitude goes to the hard-working team at Trafalgar, Theatre Royal Sydney and GWB, and to the resident creative team tirelessly led by Associate Director Leah Howard", said producers Vivek J. Tiwary, Arvind Ethan David and Eva Price.
Photos of Jagged Little Pill Australia 2021 by Daniel Boud