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YOU LIVE, YOU LEARN

by RICA AREVALO

ONE BIG HAPPY FAMBAM The perfect Healy family in Jagged Little Pill

ONE BIG HAPPY FAMBAM The perfect Healy family in Jagged Little Pill

During the first hour that Jagged Little Pill stormed the Internet with an announcement of a Broadway show, we booked tickets right away to see this Alanis Morrisette groundbreaking-inspired album on stage. Who could forget the songs “Ironic,” “You Learn,” “You Oughta Know,” and “Hand in My Pocket” of the mid-1990s when the angry, angst-driven youth sang their rage into this alternative rock album that sold 33 million copies?

We were excited because as the show was nearing its playdate at the Broadhurst Theater, the cast Elizabeth Stanley, Sean Allan Krill, Celia Rose Gooding, and Derek Klena sent an unlisted video introducing their characters and telling us, “Can’t wait to see you,” and even Alanis gave her insights. “These songs were born from me, but they’re being shared now and they’re yours, it’s ours, it really speaks to our time in this moment,” she said.

The opening scene shows Mary Jane “MJ” Healy (Elizabeth) beside a Christmas tree reading her Christmas message to her “followers” about her picture-perfect family. Her husband Steve (Sean) is a successful workaholic lawyer, their handsome son Nick (Derek) recently got accepted into Harvard, and their interracial adoptive daughter Frankie (Celia) is loved by her family, passionate about social justice.

Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody wrote a book showing the skeletons-in-the-closet of the suburban Connecticut family and transformed it into a musical using Alanis’ songs. MJ is into yoga but a car accident leads her to being addicted to opioid to the extent of getting the illegal substance from an underground young dealer. Steve is into porn and thinks their marriage needs counselling. Ideal son Nick is an “accomplice” to a rape incident in one of his high school parties. Having a sexual orientation identity, Frankie is caught two-timing with gay friend Jo (Lauren Patten) and cute boy Phoenix (Antonio Cipriano).

Directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus, the end of the first act shows the desperate MJ singing “Forgiven” alone, inside a solemn church, signalling her rock bottom state. It also motions the audience to completely get hooked in this wealthy dysfunctional family.

Breakout star Lauren Patten

Breakout star Lauren Patten

In the second act, breakout star Lauren—who has been with Jagged Little Pill since its first table reading in 2017—sings a forceful rendition of “You Oughta Know.” One can feel her intense pain when she sees best friend Frankie in bed with a new lover. After singing the lyrics, “Well, I’m here to remind you of the mess you left when you went away, it’s not fair to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave me, you, you oughta know!” a rousing standing ovation from the audience greeted her honest, heartbroken situation—never have I seen an audience stand up in the middle of a Broadway performance.

Also worthy of note is “Uninvited” where the well-choreographed company traces back MJ’s addiction, beautifully dancing in reverse from the family breakfast to MJ meeting the drug dealer in a dark alley. It was a clever flashback maximizing the actors’ movements. MJ also relates with Bella’s (Kathryn Gallagher) sexual assault. Will she be quiet about her traumatic experience or join her daughter’s protest against the predator?

Jagged Little Pill is a social commentary on projecting a perfect image, rape culture, racial and sexual identity, online bullying, #MeToo, white privilege, and addiction.

Alanis writes in the Original Broadway Cast Recording album: “Through watching these relationships unfold in front of my very eyes—I have gained an objectivity…a receiving of these songs and their meaning in a way I could never have done through the performing of them around this funny and fragile and miraculous planet.”

The two-hour-and-40-minute musical ends with “You Learn” where the cast accepts each other’s weaknesses and shortcomings. Love prevails and the bittersweet life moves on for everyone.

The musical runs until July 2020 in New York City. To Alanis Morissette fans, the seven-time Grammy award winner will not appear on the show but you will be sentimental once you hear her iconic songs—the anthems of the ‘90s.



Source: Manila Bulletin

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