For the first time in more than five years, Theatre Royal Sydney has reopened its doors, presenting the Australian premiere of the Grammy and Tony Award-winning musical JAGGED LITTLE PILL. 

Inspired by Alanis Morissette’s career-defining 1995 album of the same name, JAGGED LITTLE PILL tells the story of the Healy family, who live in an affluent suburb of the US state of Connecticut and, from the outside, appear to be a picture-perfect unit. But there’s much more going on than meets the eye. The show canvasses a number of critical contemporary issues, including drug addiction, sexual violence, and identity.

Written by Tony and Academy Award-winner Diablo Cody (Juno, Tully) and directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Waitress) the show opened on Broadway in December 2019 following its world premiere at Boston’s American Repertory Theatre. It received 15 Tony Award nominations and, in September, took home the prizes for Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actress in a Musical. The show is choreographed by frequent Beyoncé collaborator Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

Just two years after its Broadway opening, JAGGED LITTLE PILL has arrived in Sydney, welcoming its first audiences last week. The show is now playing a limited season at Theatre Royal Sydney before moving to Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre in January. Leading the Australian cast is Natalie Bassingthwaighte as Healy family matriarch, Mary Jane, and Tim Draxl as her husband, Steve Healy. Emily Nkomo stars as Frankie Healy, and Liam Head plays Nick Healy.

JAGGED LITTLE PILL marks Nkomo’s professional debut.

“I’m so honoured to be able to play Frankie in this new musical,” she tells Theatre People.

While she didn’t know much about the show when she first auditioned, she quickly became a fan as she moved through the audition process.

“The more auditions I got, the more I researched the musical and the more I [thought], ‘I have to do this, this is such a good piece of theatre,” says Nkomo.

Emily Nkomo

So, what is it about JAGGED LITTLE PILL that makes it such a good piece for Australian audiences?

“I think it’s how honest, how raw and how universal it is; there’s something for everyone in this musical.”

Nkomo adds: “Even though it has a lot of topics that it talks about, it never feels judgmental. So, you never feel like, ‘I’m such a bad person because I relate to these characters’; it’s more like, ‘I am a person because I relate to these characters.”

Playing the role of Phoenix is singer songwriter Aydan, who Australian TV audiences came to know in 2018 when he appeared on ‘The Voice’ and ultimately finished in the top four. After his starring role as Harry in the critically acclaimed Australian musical FAN GIRLS, he’s excited to return to the stage in JAGGED LITTLE PILL’s first production outside of North America and first touring company worldwide.

Aydan explains that while he knew some of Morissette’s music before auditioning, he wasn’t familiar with Morissette herself. He shares what it is about Morissette’s songs that makes them good material to underscore a stage show.

“I guess it’s just that they’re all really real,” he says. “There’s no filter behind any of the songs. They’re all in your face, and the lyrics are really descriptive and tell a really good story, which is … what musicals do … They’re not like songs just written for the radio. They’re written to make an impact. … The songs are really high stakes …”

Nkomo and Aydan are each asked to single out their favourite tracks from the show. Nkomo mentions ‘Not the Doctor’, while Aydan talks about how much he enjoys performing ‘Head over feet’. And both cite Act I’s ‘Forgiven’ as a standout.

“When we sing ‘Forgiven’, the energy on stage is just incredible,” Aydan says.

Aydan

In JAGGED LITTLE PILL, Nkomo’s character, Frankie Healy, is the adopted 16-year-old, African American daughter of white parents.

“She is a very passionate character,” Nkomo says. “She has a really strong voice, and she just needs to find where to put it, if that makes sense, as part of her journey.

“She is also growing in her identity, especially in her blackness, since she is brought up in a predominantly white area and a white family. A lot of black women growing up, we have to go through that acknowledgement of your identity and then loving that. It’s kind of amplified through Frankie, as she is in a very white suburb, family, school, etc. I think that’s the part of the arc that really resonates with me, and with a lot of people who will come and watch.”

Nkomo speaks highly of the creative team, comprising both local and international members, who are leading the Australian premiere of JAGGED LITTLE PILL. She’s also enjoying the experience of working alongside her fellow cast members, including those who are seasoned music theatre professionals.

“I’m learning so much from people like Nat [Bassingthwaighte) and Tim [Draxl] and Mags [Maggie McKenna], it’s just amazing,” she says.

There’s also a lot of excitement about performing JAGGED LITTLE PILL in the reopened Theatre Royal Sydney.

“I’ve never been in the Theatre Royal before, so it’s new for me, but it’s an incredible place,” says Aydan.

“The architecture is gorgeous and … even though it is a large theatre, it still feels really intimate … which is going to be really good for the audience and us,” Nkomo says.

If there is one message Nkomo hopes audiences will take away from their experience seeing JAGGED LITTLE PILL, what would it be?

“That it’s okay to be human,” she says. “Just let yourself be human. Let others be human.”

Photo credit: Stuart Miller

JAGGED LITTLE PILL – SEASON DETAILS


SYDNEY

Venue: Theatre Royal Sydney
Season: Now playing until Friday December 19th 2021
Performance Times: Tuesday 7pm, Wednesday-Saturday 7.30pm, Matinees Saturday 2pm & Sunday 1pm, Sunday 6pm
Price: From $65.00 + booking fee
* A fee of $8.95 will apply per transaction.
Bookings: jaggedmusical.com and theatreroyalsydney.com

MELBOURNE

Venue: Comedy Theatre
Season: from January 2nd 2022
Performance Times: Tuesday 7pm, Wednesday-Saturday 7.30pm, Matinees Saturday 2pm & Sunday 1pm, Sunday 6pm
Price: From $85.00 + booking fee
Bookings: jaggedmusical.com and ticketmaster.com.au

 

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