December 5, 2019 | 9:02pm
Elizabeth Stanley and Celia Rose Gooding in “Jagged Little Pill.”
2 hours and 35 minutes, with one intermission. At the Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W 44th St. 212-239-6200
More social issues are addressed in “Jagged Little Pill” than at a Democratic presidential debate.
Opioid addiction, race, bisexuality, sexual assault — the Alanis Morissette musical, which opened Thursday night on Broadway, has got ’em all. But, like trying to shove Elizabeth Warren’s entire platform into a single evening, nearly every topic gets short shrift.
An adopted black daughter’s frustration with her white family is given about a scene and a half. Next! A crumbling marriage is allowed little more than a small therapy sequence. Hurry up — we gotta whoosh to the girl coming out to her parents as bi for all of 10 seconds. The overflowing buffet of controversial subjects borders on ludicrous.
But there are two shows here: an unwieldy story of a picture-perfect Connecticut family struggling to conceal a litany of problems, and a musical filled with fabulous numbers. “Jagged Little Pill” boasts the best cast of singers now on Broadway, all of whom fiercely embrace the rage, angst and bluntness of Morissette’s 1995 album. You won’t really care why Lauren Patten’s Jo sings the anthem “You Oughta Know,” but you’ll be very glad she did.
Although Jo owns what is easily the strongest moment of the show, she isn’t the main character. That would be Mary Jane (Elizabeth Stanley), better known as MJ, the hot-yoga-loving wife of Steve (Sean Allan Krill) and mother of high schoolers Nick (Derek Klena) and Frankie (Celia Rose Gooding).
MJ was recently in a car crash, but as she writes in her annual Christmas letter, “My car may be totaled, but you can’t total Mary Jane Healy.” Don’t be so sure: Her injuries left her with a crippling addiction. Doctors won’t re-up her prescription, so she buys pills from a dealer in an alleyway.
Nick, meanwhile, has just been accepted into Harvard, yet resents being loved for his success. His sister, Frankie, is secretly snogging her BFF, Jo, but soon falls for Phoenix (Antonio Cipriano), a guy. Their dad, Steve, gets the least compelling storyline: He and MJ haven’t had sex in a year, and he’s putting all that energy into work and internet porn. So much for Act 1: The second act is mostly about sexual assault, and can resemble an informative high school assembly.
Although Diablo Cody gives the actors cinder-block-to-the-head material, they perform it all genuinely and with passion. That’s especially true of Stanley, who conveys enormous strength even as her MJ becomes so weak.
“Jagged Little Pill” on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theater on West 44th Street.
Taidgh Barron/NY Post
Elizabeth Stanley and Heather Lang.
Celia Rose Gooding and company.
Celia Rose Gooding, Lauren Patten and company.
Elizabeth Stanley, Kathryn Gallagher and company.
As she proved with “Waitress,” director Diane Paulus can give an excellent pop-rock score and a schlocky book a slick and heartfelt staging. Emily Rebholz’s grungy costumes, however, are more nostalgic than accurate. The show is set today, and kids no longer dress like alt-rockers. But the clothes pair well with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s rebellious, full-bodied choreography.
Morissette fans will be pleased by all of the rousing numbers, such as “Hand In My Pocket,” “Predator” and “Your House.” There’s also a clever take on “Ironic,” set here in a creative-writing class. “Hold up. Wait a second,” a kid says. “That’s not actually ironic.”
It’s in that sequence that we first hear from Phoenix, a relatively small part in which Cipriano is making his Broadway debut. He has a unique, wildly pretty singing style that lets high notes effortlessly float. He’s mesmerizing, and I’d wager this will be the last time his name falls under “chorus” in a Playbill bio.
The stage is jam-packed with talent, but they’re propping up an after-school special. That’s disappointing from Cody, who brilliantly gave us turbulent teens in the touching movie “Juno.” Diablo, you-oo, you-oo, you-oo oughta know better.