Jagged Little Pill - Sydney Theatre Royal (NSW)
Reviewed by Tessa Miles
Jagged Little Pill the musical has made its return to Sydney’s Theatre Royal after it played for an extremely limited season last December. The show adapts the songs from Alanis Morissette’s most successful album in a nothing-is-as-it-really-seems story.
With book by Diablo Cody, Jagged Little Pill tells the story of the Healy’s, a seemingly perfect suburban American family who struggle behind closed doors with drug use, sexual assault, and identity - both gender and culture - while facing demons and traumas from the past and the present. The heavy themes are balanced out with some well-timed comedy throughout the show. Natalie Bassingthwaighte as Mary Jane Healy and Tim Draxl as her husband Steve Healy lead a young cast, most of who made their theatre debuts on the stage of the Theatre Royal.
In its initial Sydney run, Jagged Little Pill was lacking the polished feel a professional production would usually deliver, with brok
en mics and a couple of missteps in the choreography, it was clear that the show needed to iron out its kinks. Proving that practice makes perfect, the return season opening night performance delivered exactly what the show had the potential to be, a powerhouse musical. The choreography was clean and sharp, the emotions hard-hitting and moving and the vocals powerful in conveying this important story. The set, consisting of moving furniture and projections on screens, felt as if it were lacking, but the performances and powerful vocals managed to pull focus away from the bareness on stage.
Bassingthwaite’s performance was stellar and moving throughout the show, especially at the peak during Uninvited. Another noteworthy performance came from Emily Nkomo, playing Frankie Healy, the outspoken and often misunderstood adopted daughter. Nkomo has found her stride in Frankie’s boots and delivers Morissette’s songs in a relatable manner for anybody who has felt like they didn’t belong.
The standout performance of the night was Maggie McKenna, whose performance as Jo had them belting out You Oughta Know with such ferocity and power, they had the audience on their feet several times during the song and ended with a standing ovation from the entire audience which lasted a good 30 seconds.
The show depicts stories of multiple characters and at some points felt there was unnecessary or rushed moments, such as the character of Phoenix who felt more like a reason to justify why some of the popular songs needed to remain in the show.
The ensemble delivered strong performances and it was refreshing to see each highlighted in different ways. The dancers who would typically remain in the background with the rest of the ensemble had their chance to be front and centre showing off their talents. The different representation on stage is what theatre moving forward should continue to be, with different ethnicities, sexual and gender identities, and body types.
Jagged Little Pill is a deeply moving, empowering and important show that should not be missed!
Images: Daniel Boud
Jagged Little Pill plays at Sydney Theatre Royal until 11th September 2022. Tickets can be booked here.
Lyrics by Alanis Morissette Music by Alanis Morissette & Glen Ballard Book By Diablo Cody
Additional Music By Michael Farrell & Guy Sigsworth
Australian Associate Director Leah Howard Australian Musical Director/Supervisor Peter Rutherford Australian Associate Choreographer Adam Blanch
Australian Associate Lighting Designer Hugh Hamilton Australian Associate Sound Designer Michael Waters
NATALIE BASSINGTHWAIGHTE Mary Jane Healy TIM DRAXL Steve Healy GEORGINA HOPSON Mary Jane (Alternate) LIAM HEAD Nick Healy
EMILY NKOMO Frankie Healy AYDAN Phoenix MAGGIE MCKENNA Jo GRACE MIELL Bella JAHLA BLACKEnsemble BAYLIE CARSON Ensemble BELLA CHOUNDARY Ensemble JOSH GATES Andrew/Ensemble MATTHEW HAMILTON Swing / Steve Cover MARIE IKONOMOU Ensemble JEROME JAVIER Ensemble GIORGIA KENNEDY Swing JENNI LITTLE Ensemble / Mary Jane Cover ROBBIE MEJICA Ensemble NOAH MULLINS Ensemble COBY NJOROGE Swing / Assistant Dance Captain ISABELLA ROBERTS Ensemble HENRY ROLLO Ensemble ROMY VUKSAN Swing / Dance Captain IMANI WILLIAMS Ensemble