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Alanis Morissette is enjoying a new perspective on an old friend.
Morissette’s breakthrough album, 1995’s Jagged Little Pill, experienced an on-stage renaissance in 2019 when it inspired a Broadway musical by the same name. Although the COVID pandemic ended its New York residency in 2021, JLP hit the road last year and is now commencing the Canadian leg of a North American tour that stops this week at Regina’s Conexus Arts Centre (Oct. 10-11) and Saskatoon’s TCU Place (Oct. 13-15).
Morissette, who was part of the original production team, discussed her recent foray into musical theatre during an email interview with Postmedia:
Q What do you think of Jagged Little Pill the Musical?
A There is a lot of vitality — a giddiness. A lot of (the cast members) are cutting their teeth for what sounds like the first time in terms of touring. I just think anyone who can do that amount of performances per week, and travel, is constitutionally a warrior. I just look at them and marvel. I consider myself a warrior when I tour, but this is a whole other level.
Q An artist’s music is so personal. What’s it like to watch other people perform your songs?
A Yes, my being in the audience or in the workshop beholding … it was the first time I was receiving my own songs, and I was blown away. (How do you say that without sounding like an egomaniac? Haha.) I was really moved because I had my first taste of objectivity in a way that, as you can imagine, is hard to achieve when you are monologizing around the planet onstage for so many years. To receive it was really moving. It was also impactful to receive it through gender-bending (methods in the show) — basically the songs were often gender-bent in order to integrate into the story of the family, the Healys. So, hearing Steve’s character sing “Mary Jane” or hearing Nick’s character sing “Perfect” — there’s something about that vulnerability in a male body that just keeps reducing me to tears.
Q How did the production get off the ground?
A There were several meetings with Pulitzer Prize-winners, but it didn’t feel like a match until I met (writer-producer) Diablo Cody, at which point I had a sense of what this could be and I got really excited. And then director Diane Paulus signed on and then choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. I thought, ‘Wow! This is one plus one plus one equals 500. You couldn’t swing a dirty sock without hitting wild talent all around me.
Q Is it true you insisted that the show not be about your life?
A (When the producers) ran the idea past me I thought, ‘Well, that sounds interesting, but the only way I’d want to do it is if it wasn’t a jukebox musical.’ It would have to be a story I could sink my heart’s teeth into. As with anyone who co-writes or writes fiction, a lot of this story is quote-unquote not autobiographical, but it’s impossible not to have our personal experiences show up, whether it’s Diablo Cody or me or any of us who write. It’s hard to not beautifully impose our personal experience into any story, fiction or otherwise, so it’s personal in that sense, and anyone who knows me well can pick that up when they are watching it. Diablo matched the tone of the songs with the tone of the story. I love her so much.
Q How flattering is it that the album is still relevant after nearly 30 years?
A I often tell people that when I write my songs initially, they are for myself — not unlike a journal entry — to feel the liberation and anchoring of being fully expressed. The process of writing helps define and clarify and organize things internally. Then, once I share them, they are not mine anymore. People can interpret them in whatever way they want. I love hearing people’s interpretations of the songs. These songs are offered as support for anyone who might benefit from the comfort or clarity or empathy.