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Jagged Little Pill


Jagged Little Pill


                              By Eugene Paul


 Exploding  on to Broadway in an electrifying  surge of amazing freshness and ingenuity, marvelous veteran director Diane Paulus triumphantly weaves the raging teen angst of famed Alanis Morrisette’s music into raging new relevance, through wildly gifted Diablo Cody’s book of an achingly woke musical that is hilarious, heart rending, painfully wise.  You laugh, you cry, it’s a bitter pill to swallow and it’s just what we need right now. All bow. There’s got to be some way that everybody can afford to see it.


Meet the Healys.  No, first meet director Paulus’s secret weapon: her intense company of dancers.  Individually, every one of them shines in different roles throughout the show, especially Ebony Williams,  Antonio Cipriano, Yama Perrault, Logan Hart,  Heather Lang, Kei Tsuriharatani, Max Kumangai, but together, over and over, they are a frenzy of underscoring what the show is about. Now, meet the Healys, because they are the heart, the core. They’re doing their annual Christmas card right at us.  There’s  beautiful Mom, Mary Jane (stunning Elizabeth Stanley), handsome Dad, Steve ( superb Sean Allan Krill), perfect son, Nick (sterling Derek Klena) and  little sixteen year old beautiful baby sister, Frankie (outrageous  Celia Rose Gooding). All privileged overachievers. Of course.


Elizabeth Stanley and Celia Rose Gooding in "Jagged Little Pill."
Elizabeth Stanley and Celia Rose Gooding in "Jagged Little Pill." Matthew Murphy


Which means that Frankie champions Causes, marches, makes posters, protests. She stands out.  She ought to, she’s black. Adopted. And as much as Mom wants her to fit in, Frankie knows she doesn’t.  Thank god for a sense of humor. A sense of humor would help Nick because he’s Perfect and it’s a strain. Of course he gets into Harvard.  And it’s a worse strain. Strain? Steve knows strain. Steve, Daddy Steve, works sixty hours a week for his law firm. Yada yada yada that’s where the money is, but that’s not where the family is. And Mom, perfect Mom Mary Jane, is cracking.


You’ve stopped being amazed at how well the Morrisette songs fit in. You accept that everyone is super multitalented, sings like sixty, acts like ninety, gets to us like a hundred. You are accepting that the frantic dancers are expressing your inner feelings in choreographer Sidi Lardi Cherkaoui’s fevered underlinings director Paulus has demanded. It all seems so right they also take you to myriad configurations whirling brilliant set designer Riccardo Hernandez’s  constantly fluid set pieces into continuous flow of scene after scene after scene.


Everything’s been so clever, so witty, so funny you sense a queasy alarm when Mom Mary Jane needs more and more of those pain pills. And when the phony prescriptions don’t work any more, there’s the skateboard kid in the alley with more pills for cash, lotsa cash. No wonder she’s not aware that Frankie has found a wonderful kindred spirit, Jo (dazzling Lauren Patten), but would she be aware anyway? Nick is finding  the demands of being the perfect son perfectly lousy and Dad Steve blames himself for everything slipping away. Little does he know. But director Paulus’s wild and passionate dancers know. And so do we.


Derek Klena


So that when perfect Nick is persuaded to go to that drinking party his best bud has been pushing, the dancers get wilder.  And when Nick finds his baby sister there, we are Involved. We’re almost ready to laugh a bit when Frankie hooks up with flavor of the moment Phoenix (Antonio Cipriano) until her girl friend, Jo, discovers them but Jo’s passion is so real it ain’t funny at all. Then, things get bad.


Which suits the Alanis Morrisette/Glen Ballard song book perfectly. And literally brings the audience to its feet when Jo sings, performs her guts out in a Morrisette song as if written for the moment. Because by now, we care.  We care about Mary Jane ‘s dark history that erupts after years of concealment. We care about every one of the Healys. And  maybe most of all, we care about those kids at that party, especially Bella (extraordinary Kathryn Gallagher), raped, helplessly drunk. Is it all too much, beyond handling? Then  how are we to survive?


And that’s the great question you never wanted to confront, especially going out for a fun evening at the theater. It’s not revealing too much to tell you that the company sings “You Learn”  for the final number.  Because that’s what we do.  We have to. What a show. Kudos  all around: Tom Kitt for tuned in music supervising, Emily Rebholz for tuned in costumes, Justin Townsend for nailing lighting, Jonathan Deans for swooning sound, Bryan Perri for leading that tremendous band. And especially Diane Paulus, directing myriad elements e pluribus unum. What a show.  I know. I said that already. Enjoy.  Lucky you.


Jggged Little Pill. At the Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44th Street.  Tickets:  $59-$399. 212-239-6200. 2rs, 40 min.  Open Run.