Learn more about this emotionally raw production before you go.

Photography credit: Matthew Murphy

Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette’s 1995 alternative rock album, Jagged Little Pill, is now a Broadway musical by the same name. The National Tour is at Portland’s Keller Auditorium now through Sunday, November 20. Read on to find out what it’s all about and what you need to know if you plan to take your children to a performance.

Jagged Little Pill tells the story of the Healys, a seemingly perfect family living in the Connecticut suburbs. But all is not as it appears in their boastful annual Christmas letter. Steve is a workaholic who uses pornography to fill the void in his failing marriage. Mary Jane is an unfulfilled, do-it-all mom with a hidden drug addition. The story also includes reference to rape, the Me Too movement, gender identity, crushing perfectionism, white privilege, a heaping bucketful of feminist rage and more. The number of social issues thrown at the audience is staggering. 

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Act one contains one emotionally raw situation after another and several songs that were so loud it was difficult to understand the lyrics. (Fans of Morissette will likely have no trouble discerning the familiar lyrics, though.) My season ticket holder friend, who attended the same performance, actually plugged her ears during a few of the songs, something she has never done at a play before. She and her theater buddy left during intermission. But my sister-in-law, who came with me, loved the production and wished she had brought her high school junior daughter along. She thinks the show has a lot of lessons to offer young people getting ready to head off to college.

Things get worse for the Healys in act two. But, there are some softer moments and moments of humor that give the audience a break from the rage storm of music and choreography. And thankfully, there is a hope-filled ending, because we needed it. 

Opening night, both female leads and four other roles were played by understudies. Lani Corson (understudy for Mary Jane) gave a powerful performance as the female lead. But the actor who stole the show was Jade McLeod as Jo. McLeod’s character got a lot of the much needed one liners and some of the best songs, including Morissette’s bad break-up hit, “You Oughta Know,” the act two show stopper. 

The show contains strong language, adult themes, alcohol and drug abuse, and talk of sexual violence. It’s recommended for ages 14+, but I would up the age to 16+ because it’s just so emotionally raw and aggressive. The show covers a lot of pain and anger in two and a half hours and it leaves you feeling drained. Take cues from your teen and be ready to talk about it (or not) on the way home. 

Tickets for Jagged Little Pill are still available and can be purchased here starting at $29.75. Arrive early, as late seating is not allowed until after the first 13 minutes of the show. Covid precautions are temporarily relaxed at Keller Auditorium, so neither masks nor proof of vaccination are required. 

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Elizabeth Ely Moreno

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