What Critics Are Saying About 'Jagged Little Pill' Musical
Jagged Little Pill, the musical inspired by Canadian singer Alanis Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough album of the same name, opened Thursday night at the Broadhurst Theater in New York City.
The show, directed by Diane Paulus and written by Diablo Cody, features 23 songs written by Morissette and Glen Ballard and focuses on the Healy family of Connecticut. It is scheduled to run until July 5, 2020.
So, what did the critics have to say?
Charles Isherwood of Broadway News described Jagged Little Pill as an “ambitious but frustratingly diffuse show.”
He wrote: “It’s in toggling between the characters’ numerous problems, and the larger social issues they illustrate, that the musical sometimes steps on its own toes — shouting when a whisper might be better, or moving on quickly when a reflective pause might be more rewarding.”
Isherwood added that the show “should probably include a list of trigger warnings alongside the song list, so topical and potentially upsetting are the subjects it explores.”
At the New York Post, Johnny Oleksinski complained “more social issues are addressed in Jagged Little Pill than at a Democratic presidential debate … The overflowing buffet of controversial subjects borders on ludicrous.”
Oleksinski praised the show’s “fabulous numbers” and described its cast as the best singers on Broadway right now. "The stage is jam-packed with talent,” he wrote, “but they’re propping up an after-school special.”
Erin Strecker of Mashable also thinks there’s too much going on. “I just wish the show had been allowed to breathe a bit,” she wrote.
“It all winds up feeling pretty overwrought. It can feel like an issue pile-on, where audiences are waiting for the next after school special-style twist.”
Strecker added: “Perhaps because we were juggling about five different storylines I couldn't get invested in any of them.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney agreed, writing that “much of the show is … a heavy-handed downer, its glut of anxieties becoming suffocating.”
After criticizing the tone of the first act as “quite glum,” he wrote: “There are thrilling emotional peaks and urgently relatable contemporary issues that should generate a passionate audience for Jagged Little Pill among young theatergoers who responded to musicals like Next to Normal and Dear Evan Hansen.
“Whatever the weaknesses of the creative team's work, they deserve credit for breaking the jukebox mold and building a story that wrestles with real feelings and takes a stand against complacency.”
Roma Torre of NY1 opined that Jagged Little Pill, "much like Next To Normal and Dear Evan Hansen, is concerned with the collateral damage inflicted on us by family and social pressures. And given Morissette's empowering lyrics, in this #MeToo era, the entire show becomes a moving anthem of our time."
Alexis Soloski of The Guardian wrote: “Yes, its plot is shaky and contrived, its songs – and there are so, so many of them – histrionic. It seizes on enough hot-button issues – sexual assault, the opioid epidemic, internet addiction, workaholism, misogyny, sex and gender identity, and OK, sure, gun violence, too – to singe the first row. It is, indisputably, too much and that too muchness is what makes it so watchable.”
She added: “The noisy, outsized unruly feelings that sometimes seemed too big for the album fill a Broadway theater just fine. Ironic, don’t you think?”
At The New York Times, Jesse Green wrote: “It’s easy to imagine all the ways Jagged Little Pill could have gone wrong. It could have wound up in a bio-musical straitjacket or with a story either too light for the songs’ furious intelligence or too broad for Broadway.”
Declaring that the musical “certainly is original,” Green said it is “fully in focus: clear in its priorities, rich in character, sincere without syrup, rousing and real.”
Variety reviewer Marilyn Stasio said “it would be an insult to call this stage adaptation a jukebox musical, because unlike most specimens of that theatrical genre, the story seems to emerge organically from the music.”
She explained: “This is a show you want to shout about. But the kids who would love it probably can’t afford it and the grownups who can afford it might not get it. So here’s my suggestion: Instead of coupling up, every grownup who can spring for tickets should take a teenager.”
Listen to music from Alanis Morissette