‘Jagged Little Pill’ overdoses on social issues | Arts & Entertainment

I you should not know sufficient about Canadian pop diva Alanis Morissette’s tunes to be a lover, but I would read a ton of superior items about the musical “Jagged Small Pill” inspired by her eponymous multi-award-profitable 1995 rock album, so I was psyched about the Chicago premiere of the North American tour halting briefly at the Nederlander Theatre.

Some preliminary advice for theatergoers in a very similar posture: Hear to the album in progress or, greater nevertheless, to the original Broadway cast recording from 2019 (readily available on YouTube), because the show, with lyrics by Morissette and music mostly by her and Glen Ballard, includes music from her other albums and two composed just for the production.

If you are not acquainted with them, you may overlook at least fifty percent the lyrics, primarily for the figures that crescendo into anthems, of which there are many. Ensemble efforts appear to be dicier than solos, in spite of the great do the job of tunes supervisor, orchestrator and arranger Tom Kitt and music director and conductor Matt Doebler, who leads the exceptional onstage band in almost two dozen hits, between them “You Oughta Know,” “Head Around Toes,” “Hand In My Pocket,” and “Ironic.”

These are cannily included into a e book by Diablo Cody that goes way over and above a dilemma-centric film-of-the-week to consider on a host of social problems and ills. Arguably way too lots of, in truth — or adequate to be ripe for parody. A person redeeming feature, even so, is a excellent dose of humor like a lot of sitcom-worthy one liners.

At the centre is the Healy spouse and children, the seemingly perfect suburban pair Steve (Chris Hoch) and Mary Jane (Heidi Blickenstaff, reprising her purpose on Broadway) and their seemingly perfect small children, higher education-certain Nick (Dillon Klena) and his 16-yr-previous sister Frankie (Lauren Chanel).

Mary Jane’s annual Xmas letters bookend the action and try to set an upbeat spin on their lives, but we soon find out that Steve and Mary Jane have drifted apart. He not only spends 60 hrs a 7 days at the place of work, rarely observing his relatives, he is also hooked on online porn. MJ has develop into addicted to painkillers after struggling accidents in a car crash and, no longer equipped to get prescription refills, she’s turned to getting medicines on the road. The human being she’s proudest of is Nick, who’s just been approved at Harvard, but the tension she places on him to be ideal is using a toll. Frankie, who is adopted, feels overlooked, and staying Black in a white loved ones makes issues worse.

And there’s a lot more. Frankie arrives out to her moms and dads as bisexual, but when her non-binary husband or wife Jo (Jade McLeod) finds her in bed with new boyfriend Phoenix (Rishi Golani) and tells her mother and father, there is certainly hell to pay. Frankie is furious about their anger over her consensual intercourse, considering the fact that their mindset toward Nick’s friend Bella (Allison Sheppard) getting sexually assaulted at a house social gathering is to inform him and Frankie not to get included for panic of harmful the family’s standing. MJ’s perspective to Bella’s attack, dealt with at duration, is all the a lot more shameful since she was also assaulted as a faculty scholar (and couldn’t carry herself to tell anyone).

Not incredibly, the Healy spouse and children trauma arrives to a head with MJ’s overdose on opioids laced with fentanyl but, by the stop, every person has undergone a transformation that supposedly makes them much better. The scene of MJ battling with a dancer as her internal self is just one of the most helpful staged by director Diane Paulus and choreographer and movement director Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. In normal, the gyration-large dancing conjures up “Hair,” grunge and so-so street hip-hop, as do Emily Rebholz’s costumes.

When the acting and singing are sturdy, the staging is instead frenetic — except for a handful of actually nifty effects, between them a church scene. Specifically distracting is Justin Townsend’s lighting, a mix of neon bars and colored spots (in some cases shined right in our eyes) that suggests a rock live performance extra than a phase enjoy.

All round, I was pleased to see “Jagged Small Pill” but have a really hard time believing it garnered 15 Tony Award nominations. (It gained two, for greatest guide of a musical and finest highlighted actress in a musical.) Its “more is more” approach arguably is just too a lot except if, of system, you are a Morissette aficionado.