It wasn’t exactly overnight, but Alanis Morissette’s ascent to stardom was fast and especially furious thanks to a certain Jagged Little Pill.
The success of the Canadian’s third album made her the bestselling international debut artist in history — a title she still holds nearly 28 years later, with the album’s sales reaching 33 million copies worldwide.
The set also helped Morissette scoop up five Grammy Awards in 1996, including Album of the Year, making the then 21-year-old the youngest artist to win the top honor until first Taylor Swift (at 20) and then Billie Eilish (at 18) came along in recent years.
Chances are you’ve forgotten, but a little over three years ago Jagged Little Pill was on track to do it all again, this time as a Broadway musical featuring the same explosively passionate music.
After a record-setting pre-Broadway run in 2018, the show was a hit right out of the gate. When it officially opened on December 5, 2019, the show earned the kind of rave in the New York Times that Broadway producers dream about.
Jagged Little Pill is “redemptive, rousing, and real,” the newspaper’s critic glowed. “Jagged Little Pill stands alongside the original musicals that have sustained the best hopes of Broadway.”
And then came the pandemic, shutting down the jukebox musical, directed by Tony-winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Waitress), after barely three months into its run. It then lasted a rocky two months after Broadway reopened in the fall of 2021, when recurring cases of COVID-19 among cast and crew kept triggering cancellation after cancellation.
These days, the show can be seen on its first national tour about halfway through an inaugural year-long run now settled in at the National Theatre through next weekend.
The tour is led by Heidi Blickenstaff, a well-known and well-regarded quantity in the D.C. theater scene, having been featured in a number of local productions over the past 15 years or so, including the critically acclaimed Kander & Ebb revue First You Dream at Signature Theatre in 2009 — and then again a year later when the Kennedy Center reprised the show.
In 2016, she starred as the mother in the well-reviewed musical adaptation of Disney’s famed mother-daughter vehicle Freaky Friday, a co-production with Signature.
Back in 2007, Blickenstaff starred in the world-premiere musical adaptation of the Frank Capra classic Meet John Doe at Ford’s Theatre. Calling it an otherwise lackluster production, Metro Weekly‘s then-theater critic Tim Plant said, “Blickenstaff is Meet John Doe‘s biggest asset, and is reason alone to see the show. She hits every note with strength and precision.”
In Jagged Little Pill, Blickenstaff stars as Mary Jane, or MJ, the mother of a perfectly imperfect family with Lauren Chanel as daughter Frankie and Dillon Klena as son Nick, with Chris Hoch as husband/father Steve.
At the heart of the story, which earned Diablo Cody (Juno) a Tony Award for Best Book, is the mother’s secret opioid addiction and the daughter’s budding bisexuality, each in their own way prompting intriguing and unexpected plot developments and topical discussions, often further enhanced by songs, both new and well-known, chiefly written by Morissette and producer Glen Ballard, including “Hand in My Pocket” (fueled by a discussion about gender expression and sexual identity), “Ironic” (naturally prompted by a debate in Frankie’s English class), and “You Oughta Know” (which becomes the kiss-off anthem for Frankie’s female friend/girlfriend).
The show, which garnered a season-best 15 Tony nominations, also features explosive choreography by frequent Beyoncé collaborator Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Composer/Arranger Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) leads the onstage band.
Through March 26 at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets start at $60. Visit www.BroadwayAtTheNational.com or call 202-628-6161.
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