Alanis Morissette was just 19 when she wrote most of the songs on her visceral and venerable album Jagged Little Pill, which shot her to international stardom when it was released in 1995 and made her an icon of alternative rock. Now, just shy of its 25th anniversary next year, the classic album is making its way to the Broadway stage in a musical of the same name, exposing a new generation to songs like “You Outta Know” and “Ironic”—and reminding many why they fell in love with the album in the first place.
Helmed by director Diane Paulus, the Tony-winning mind behind musicals including Waitress, Finding Neverland and the 2013 revival of Pippin, Jagged Little Pill stays true to its roots, taking on a pop-rock edge with a live band and concertlike staging. “I loved the dual challenge of dealing with something that exists in the culture and wanting, as a director, to deliver that,” Paulus recently told a packed house of press and industry VIPs at Haswell Green’s. “There are many, many people who want to live inside Jagged Little Pill. The viscerality is like Greek theater.”
When Morissette was first approached about the project, she knew she didn’t want the musical to be autobiographical, “because the last thing I wanted to do, to be perfectly transparent, was any kind of jukebox musical,” she says. “My first thought was if there would be a story told that would match and intertwine and feel married to the music.”
Rather than taking the biography-musical route like many of Broadway’s recent hits (i.e., The Cher Show or Beautiful), Jagged Little Pill features a new narrative about an Instagram-ready family that’s anything but picture-perfect underneath. A book by Diablo Cody, perhaps best known for her Oscar-winning debut, Juno, ensures a sharp wit and an of-the-moment storyline that touches on topics like gender identity, sexual abuse and race relations, all interwoven within hits including “Head Over Feet” and “Hand in My Pocket.”
“The songs have taken on a new life that has expanded what I even knew possible,” says Morissette, who adds that the experience of transforming the work from an album into a Broadway musical has been surprisingly moving. “This experience has brought me into this community, and has brought these songs and these stories to life in a way that has allowed the rubber to hit the road for them.” From $49, Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th St., jaggedlittlepill.com
Photography by: Photo by Tim Roney/Getty Images