By Nick Pilgrim

On Friday 14 January, Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre played host to the media launch for Jagged Little Pill – The Musical. Combining the iconic nineties blockbuster album by Alanis Morissette and a powerful book from Diablo Cody (the screenwriter of Juno), the timing of this national tour could not be more pertinent. A story of hope, survival and salvation, this show will resonate with audiences everywhere.

Using Morissette’s rich set list as a springboard, the show addresses such hot button topics as online porn addiction, prescription pill dependency, teenage gender and sexual identity. In short, Jagged Little Pill gives voice to the people who need it most.

Since earning 15 Tony Nominations as a testament to its social vision and artistic impact (with wins for Best Book and Best Featured Actress), Morissette is thrilled that Australia is playing host to its first international tour. Hot on the heels of an acclaimed stop in Sydney last month, today’s press call comprised of three songs from the show.

A jukebox musical but not in the biographical sense like Jersey Boys, Beautiful, Dream Lover, or The Boy from Oz, Jagged Little Pill is closer in concept to deeply human journeys such as Dear Evan Hansen, Falsettos, Fun Home, and Next to Normal.  Meaning that through song, the traditional nuclear family dynamic is tested, redefined, and stretched to absolute breaking point.

Starting at midday with an acknowledgement to elders past, present and emerging, reporters and photographers alike were introduced to the band, the ensemble, and the lead cast. Knowing the troubles and challenges live theatre at home and around the world has faced in the past twenty-four months, it would be fair to say that the air on Exhibition Street was electric. Dripping in house party atmosphere, everyone in attendance was determined to have a good time.

Staged at street level directly in front of the theatre’s foyer entrance, holding the launch outdoors was a stroke of genius. In bringing this acoustic presentation to the people, I was reminded of how breakfast television programs such as NBC’s Today Show would feature excerpts from the latest Broadway offerings up close and personal in New York City’s Rockerfeller Plaza. Virtually nose to nose with these talented creatives, Melbourne’s inclement weather even played ball for once.

Fresh from her breakthrough success in Muriel’s Wedding – The Musical and the U.S. National Tour of Dear Evan Hansen, Maggie McKenna (as Jo) kicked off proceedings with an energetic rendition of ‘Hand In My Pocket’. Joined by newcomer and rising star, Emily Nkomo (as Frankie), together, they immediately struck up the chemistry crucial to their onstage characters’ relationship.

This was followed by ‘Ironic’, which details a crucial turning point where Frankie is introduced to Phoenix (played by The Voice alumni, Aydan), who eventually becomes her boyfriend. (A small inside joke shared by some of the media in attendance, was how this upbeat afternoon had been proceeded by thwarted attempts to photograph the controversial (and reclusive) tennis player Novak Djokovic nearby at Melbourne Park.)

The final song lead by veterans Natalie Bassingthwaighte (as matriarch, Mary Jane Healy) and Tim Draxl (as her husband, Steve), was the perfect ensemble piece to round out the launch.

Followers of Morisette’s work will love this show’s fresh spin on her musical opus.  Furthermore, anyone with a passion for garage band grunge and modern musical productions like Rent or American Idiot, should become instant fans as well. In this brief but impactful preview, there was a real sense of family shared by the cast and creatives.

Playing in Melbourne until 16 March, the tour continues in Perth at the Crown Theatre from 14 May, before returning to Sydney’s refurbished Theatre Royal on 9 July.

Theatre People looks forward to posting our thoughts on the current Melbourne season very soon.

Jagged Little Pill opens Sunday January 16

See the vision that stopped traffic outside the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne

Images: Nick Pilgrim