The original post for this episode can now be found here.
Transcriptions by: Masha Latvinava
Jagged Little Pill – Episode #119 – December 10, 2020
JESS: Hello, I'm Jesse McAnally.
ANDREW: And I am Andrew DeWolf.
JESS: And welcome to Musicals with Cheese, the podcast where I try to get Andrew to like musical theatre. And, Andrew, we have a very special guest today. I am so pumped.
ANDREW: Such a special guest. It's ridiculously special.
JESS: Such a special guest that if this goes badly, we could be kicked off of BPN.
ANDREW: We could be fired. I hear death squads - firing squads - are back. It could be us.
JESS: It could be us. We could be the first BPN firing squad recipients. But today I want to welcome the wonderful - the host of The Theatre Podcast with Alan Seales, and the CTO and co-founder of the Broadway Podcast Network: Alan Seals.
ALAN: Hello, hello. Yeah, after this episode, advertisers are gonna pay us not to air your episodes.
JESS: I'm surprised none of them have –
ANDREW: I’m surprised they're not already doing that.
JESS: “They’re talking about what?” “They said what about Tootsie?”
ANDREW: Catty and crass.
JESS: A Broadway composer’s publicist once described our show that way. And honestly, we've been on the downhill ever since then. So Alan, thank you for joining us and ruining your entire podcasting career. We're so happy to have you.
ALAN: It’s great to be here. I've been listening actually to you guys for a while. So this is exciting for me too.
JESS: Now, your podcast started just when we started. Like, we're kind of copacetic, week-to-week the same thing.
ALAN: Really? Yeah, I... Gosh, I think my first episode was early October 2018. So yeah, whenever –
JESS: We started September 2018. So, we're almost neck and neck.
ALAN: How did how did yours come about? I want to hear the origin story because I was up at three in the am, couldn't sleep, wanted to hear people dish on - what do the kids called it? Kiki? I wanted to hear a kiki about a Broadway show or something. And –
JESS: Let’s have a kiki.
ANDREW: A kiki? I’ve never heard of kiki.
JESS: A kiki is a party.
ALAN: Yeah, yeah.
JESS: Haven’t you seen Glee? They also mix in Turkey Lurkey Time. It's great.
ANDREW: Oh, do they really?
JESS: We didn’t make it that far in Glee.
ANDREW: I have seen Glee. I didn’t make it that far though. He didn't make me watch enough episodes.
JESS: No. Things got sad in the real world for Glee. So we stopped talking about it.
ALAN: So, I was just like, well, “I'm gonna do it” because I can't find anything I wanted. And that was also the impetus for BPN too because I couldn't find anything that already existed. So, that's me in a nutshell there. But I want to hear your origin story.
JESS: My origin story is very similar to yours. And I know I'm not charismatic enough to run a podcast all by myself. And nor did I have much interest in doing that. So I was like, “Andrew, you've literally seen like, three musicals and you’ve hated all of them. What if I just force you to watch a bunch of them and just get your reaction?” Because he knows a lot about music theory and studied music, but hates musical theatre - at least used to.
ANDREW: I didn't always hate it. I just didn't really know very much of it.
JESS: Now, nearly 120 episodes later, here we are.
ANDREW: Now I hate it.
JESS: Yeah, now.
ALAN: Now that you know more about it, you hate it.
JESS: Well, now that it’s part of a schedule of what he has to do every week.
ALAN: This is the fun part, oh god, I love podcasting, I love talking to people. And to bring people together to talk about something they love, especially when they're passionate about it. Like, this is, I mean, obviously you've got the following, you’ve got the patrons, you've got this this great podcast, people are following you for a reason - because they either hate you or they love you. There's probably nobody in the middle.
JESS: There’s a lot of folks in the middle.
ANDREW: I think we might have people in the middle because they might hate me and love Jess.
JESS: That’s kind of the thing. We've gotten emails where it's like, “Jess, I know you're on the right side of this but your host...”
ANDREW: I’m sorry!
ALAN: Do you have a favorite email or something that sticks out as like the worst thing that you've ever said and you're like, “I've done something right to get this hate mail.”
JESS: It was literally a well-known Broadway composer’s publicist who didn't like that we weren't glowing about the show.
JESS: And described our podcast as catty and crass.
ALAN: Oh, so you weren’t joking about that?
JESS: No, that happened.
ANDREW: It’s real.
JESS: That literally happened and now we sell t-shirts of it, so...
ANDREW: Gotta profit off your haters, come on.
ALAN: Oh, I love it. I love it.
JESS: Speaking of middle finger to the establishment - Alan, you decided what we were going to talk about today and I want you to introduce it. What are we talking about this week?
ALAN: Oh! We set this up a while ago. I forgot I did that. Yes. So, we are going to talk today about Jagged Little Pill.
JESS: Cue the music, Bree.
(All I Really Want plays)
JESS: Jagged Little Pill is a musical with music by Alanis Morissette, Glen Ballard, Michael Farrell and Guy Sigsworth. The lyrics are also by Alanis Morissette, with a book by Diablo Cody - who you might know for winning an Oscar for Juno and writing great things like Tully and Jennifer's Body. It's based on Jagged Little Pill, the original album by Alanis Morissette. It premiered on Broadway - Ooh, it's like three days away from its one year - on December 5 of 2019. It ran for who knows how long because it's still running but COVID happened. Closing date COVID. It was nominated for 15 Tony Awards, which is pretty good, and as of right now the Tony Awards have not happened nor have they been scheduled. So, we'll see how that goes. The plot is: the Healys appear to be a picture-perfect suburban family - but looks can be deceiving. When the cracks beneath the surface begin to show, they must choose between maintaining the status quo or facing harsh truths about themselves, their community, and the world around them. Alright, so -
ANDREW: You know, I honestly didn't catch that their names were the Healys. Now I'm thinking about the sneakers with the wheel in the heel.
JESS: Oh my gosh, that changes the entirety of this show, my gosh.
ANDREW: Now I'm changing my entire thoughts on it.
ALAN: Well, all the choreography is them just walking around - or rolling around - on their heels while doing drugs. That's the whole show.
JESS: No, no, no, that was The Little Mermaid.
ALAN: Fair enough.
JESS: So Alan, here's my horrible confession that I felt really bad about. When you said Jagged Little Pill, I was like “Oh, this is gonna be like Mamma Mia. Alright, let's go.” Cus I assume jukebox musical, it's gonna be a fun time where people are rocking out to Alanis songs.
ANDREW: It's like the opposite?
ALAN: Complete. Oh, man, it's funny. I have a little Google Home here in front of my desk and my pictures that I took from one of the final previews I saw have been popping up this week, because like you said, they're a year away from their opening. I went into this thing, a friend and I went in and we were like, “This is gonna be crap.” Because we weren't fans of Alanis Morissette music in general. I'm not that target demographic of the album from the 90s. And I was blown away by how good the show is –
ALAN: Oh, don't you think?
JESS: Both of you, stop.
ANDREW: I have to. Someone has to.
ALAN: He's been waiting. Did you see, he's leaning and he's like, “I’m waiting for this.”
ANDREW: It's that and then I have the joke lined up from the Emperor in Star Wars Episode III, where he says “ironic - ” Well, come on.
JESS: I mean, we all agree that when Alanis Morissette was going down on Dave Coulier in a theatre, they were at Star Wars Episode III, and that's where she got the idea for Ironic.
ANDREW: That's where she gets the lyrics for Ironic.
JESS: And then you travel back to the 90s to release that album and it all works out.
ALAN: I didn't know she dated Dave Coulier. Is that true?
JESS: You Oughta Know is written about her breakup with Dave Coulier. And that is literally the only thing I knew about Alanis Morissette before going into this musical. That was the only tidbit of information I had.
ALAN: Oh man, I just know him from, of course, Full House and America's Funniest Home Videos and the jackalope voice, right?
JESS: No, no, that's Bob Saget.
ALAN: Oh, Bob Saget. Wait, who did - didn't he do funny some videos too?
JESS: Did he? Did David Coulier do home videos?
ANDREW: I honestly don't – this is something we’d have Bree look up, but now I have to look it up.
JESS: Yeah, be our Bree, Andrew. Because I don't think he did.
ALAN: I know he did the jackalope voice and I thought that was America's Funniest Home Videos because he was like (jackalope voice) “fast as fast can be, you’ll never catch me.”
JESS: That is definitely Dave Coulier. Like, if that was the voice, that was 100% Dave Coulier. He’s on Full House, which is like AFV because they both have Bob Saget. Everything with Bob Saget is basically Full House.
ANDREW: I can see he was on Extreme Ghostbusters, he's on America's Funniest People.
JESS: Was that it?
ANDREW: I don’t see Funniest Videos.
JESS: It could have been America's Funniest People.
ANDREW: America’s Most Talented Kid.
ALAN: Anyway –
JESS: Alanis Morissette dated him, got broke up –
ANDREW: Oh, World’s Funniest Videos?
ALAN: That’s what it – maybe? I don’t know.
JESS: Oh my god, someone watched AFV and was like, “They took someone from Full House and then cut a bunch of footage to it. We're gonna do that.”
ANDREW: They were like, “Let’s get the other guy from Full House.”
JESS: “Oh, John Stamos said no? I guess we'll get the other one.”
ANDREW: The other other one.
ALAN: The other other one.
JESS: Not to throw shade at Dave Coulier, but my god, to have such an anthem like You Oughta Know be about the guy who did the Popeye impression on Full House is a redonkulous thing to think about.
ALAN: I don't know. I love the fact that - comedians themselves are some of the most unhappy people and that's what makes them such great comedians. So, to know this dark side about Dave Coulier is kind of fun for me now. Reshapes a little bit of my childhood. I met Bob Saget, too. And you know, Bob Saget’s humor is completely filthy. It's dirty. It's horrible. And I mean, horrible in a good way, if you know what I’m saying. But yeah, they put this wholesome cast on Full House, I'm sure it was fun. Backstage-ish. I don't know. I'm not going there. Those kids were young.
JESS: Yeah, yeah. Those kids are young. Bob Saget went there and got into a lot of trouble behind the scenes. I read his biography. Yeah. He got into trouble. Um, but we gotta talk about Alanis. Alan, you had no connection to Alanis Morissette before seeing the show?
ALAN: No, none. Not at all.
JESS: Wow, that is actually shocking for me, because I assume - you're an 80s baby I'm willing to bet?
ALAN: 80, yeah. I just turned 40.
JESS: So, I'm surprised. That was your generation, technically.
ALAN: Well, no, I know the songs. The whole You Oughta Know album, right? That's the name of the album?
JESS: Jagged Little Pill is the name of the album.
ALAN: Jagged Little Pill. Obviously, that's what we're talking about. And that whole album, I knew it, I knew all the songs because they were played all over the radio, but I wasn't like, “This is my album. This speaks to my soul.” If I'm being honest, just between the three of us, don't tell anybody, Hootie & the Blowfish was my jam.
JESS: That's great. No, I think it's wonderful.
ALAN: So, I'm just putting that out there. I love me some Darius Rucker.
ANDREW: That’s fine.
ALAN: But no. No connection to Alanis other than just knowing about the songs. I know it was a hit - she had a hit in the 90s, Jewel had her album in the 90s that was an anthem to people, and that was all I knew. And then I heard, “Oh, they're making a Jagged Little Pill musical.” We don't need another jukebox musical. That's just not, it's not something that really matters. You know? This isn't gonna be good. And then when I went in. I purposely, when I know I'm gonna see something, I don't read anything about it because I want to be surprised. And the farthest I'll go with anything, movie or otherwise, is to see a trailer. I don't want you to tell me anything about it other than what's in the trailer. And for musicals, I don't read reviews, I don't read anything. I want to learn it for myself, and went in, and my friend who was with me - who's also a musician, and has been on Broadway herself - We were just blown away by how good it was.
JESS: Yeah, me and Andrew are sitting here from different parts of not New York City, when we totally went to New York to see this live a week ago to talk about this specifically.
JESS: Yeah, that's totally what we did. And front row seats. Somehow we got Zooms and everything involved there. So Andrew, what did you think of it?
ANDREW: Yeah. So, I don't know anything about Alanis Morissette at all. Is this a jukebox show? Or is this a forced concept album?
ALAN: So, this is a completely original story that has rewritten songs plus one or two originals.
JESS: Two originals.
ALAN: Yeah. All the songs are completely rewritten. They're arranged in a modern way, and Alanis of course was a part of that process. But yeah -
JESS: Didn’t Tom Kitt do most of the orchestration arrangements?
ALAN: Yeah, Tom Kitt did a lot of it and of course Alanis was part of it and you know, but - Okay, I'll give you the story in a nutshell. it can be argued that it's a Christmas show in the same way that you can argue –
JESS: Oh, hold on! Hold on. Andrew, you left the door open. The Christmas came in. Oh my gosh, it’s Christmas! We let in the Christmas, this is a Christmas episode. Surprise, betchya weren’t expecting that. Can you hear the snow falling down?
ANDREW: I've seen the show and I'm trying to figure out how this is a Christmas show.
JESS: Alan’s about to explain it, but it is a Christmas show.
ALAN: In the same way that people will swear up and down the Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It's not about Christmas, it just takes place - the story is bookended at Christmas. You know, it's the holidays. The show starts in one year, ends in another year of the holidays. It's a full year of the story. And the story is deep. It's about white privilege. It's about adoption. It's about addiction. It's about rape. It is –
ANDREW: You know, Christmas.
ALAN: Christmas, everything that sums up Christmas.
JESS: All right, get the firing arms. We’re done, we’re off the network.
ALAN: And it is just all of this rolled into this amazing package. That the cast... I mean, if you look at all of the Tony nominations, they are so amazingly well deserved. I mean, Tom Kitt got a nomination for his orchestrations and even Kathryn Gallagher, who I interviewed, Kathryn Gallagher on my podcast, and Elizabeth Stanley. And in talking with the two of them about how they did the show, Diane Paulus, the director - who also got a nomination - she had everybody go in and pick a research project when they started. Like, the cast, they picked something that spoke to them, whether you know, it was very serious, and it was like, “Pull up something that's - you want to talk about sexual assault, do you want to talk about white privilege, do what you - something.” And of course, this was 2018, I believe, that they were doing this, or early 2019. So, it was before this cultural reckoning that we're going through in the middle of – or now at the end of 2020. And, you know, they had talked to me, Kathryn and Elizabeth just talked to me about the way that they've learned so much about themselves and about each other. And Kathryn said she's gone through her own personal experience with some of the content that was in the show, and they've got the intimacy director, and I'm blanking on her name right now, but this is one of the few shows that in the last two years have now had an intimacy director, so - which now should become a thing, right? Have you heard about that? Like, I think Slave Play was the first show on Broadway to use one?
JESS: That’s what I remember hearing.
ANDREW: I’ll play the fish out of water here. What's an intimacy director? What does that mean?
ALAN: So, there are scenes, historically, you know, in all of entertainment, where you have - like sex scenes, nude scenes, anything where you're intimate on stage –
ANDREW: Oh, I get you. Okay, I understand now.
ALAN: So, it's someone who is there to facilitate the choreography of whatever the scene calls for. So, there's this scene, this gorgeous scene, Kathryn Gallagher sings, where she's talking about - her character is the one who gets assaulted. And the whole ensemble is just groping her in a slightly uncomfortable way to watch. And all of it is choreographed down to exactly on what beat where the hand goes on her body. So she knows exactly where to expect everybody's touch every single night. And it's something that is now just starting to become – an intimacy director, that position, Claire Warden, that's her name. Claire Warden has actually been used a couple times. And that position is starting to make its way into productions now. And I hope when Broadway returns that that's just something standard. Like, you have a dance captain, you have a choreographer, you have your musical director and you have your intimacy director. You just need that.
JESS: I agree, because you hear horror stories of like, amateur productions - Like an amateur production of Spring Awakening is terrifying to me to think about. So I'm glad this is becoming commonplace. And I hope for intense emotional shows, that becomes the thing. So, I love what you said here and I love that it talks about all these things. It does feel a little Saturday morning special to me sometimes.
ANDREW: I think it's the tone of the music with the seriousness of the topics, sometimes clashes a little bit? Because, I mean, it is pop music, essentially. And sometimes that's not quite fitting for very serious subjects. But I think that they try their best to handle it in the best way they can? I just don't know if it always lands totally for me.
ALAN: It's interesting that you said that, because thinking of it objectively now as somebody who hadn't seen it, I can see exactly how that would come across if all you've heard is the music. Because you can't see how they're setting up the scene. Because the way that it's being presented, I mean, and look at the rest of the Tony nominations, right? You've got the costume design, scenic design, lighting design- all of this. The whole picture is so good that it worked. It really did work in person.
ANDREW: So, the staging is what really sells it, you think?
ALAN: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. And it's sort of the same way you go back to Spring Awakening, right? Like, My Junk. What the hell is that? I didn't know what that song was about until I saw it on stage.
JESS: The thing is, even sometimes at Spring Awakening, it gets a little too poetic into the rock styles. And even in early versions of Hadestown, it just gets into like, metaphorical gobbly gook when you kind of need specificity in musical theatre, I find.
ALAN: Yeah, yeah, I don't know. I mean, in all seriousness, though, as soon as you can, go see this. It's worth it. And Andrew, too. I know that you're just gonna sit there in the front row with your arms crossed with the grumpy face on.
ANDREW: Of course.
ALAN: Yes, yes.
ANDREW: I only listen to jazz and classical music. And anything below that is just kind of beneath me.
JESS: It's not worth his time.
ANDREW: That’s a joke, by the way.
ALAN: You're a musician. I would love to see you rewrite your favorite musical - if you have one - in completely jazz arrangements. That’s your challenge for the new year.
JESS: We have thought about doing very similar things. We have had conversations. Alan, I hope you'll forgive me for talking about something that has been brought up to me by some of our trans and non-binary viewers. When I was like, “Hey, what are your thoughts on Jagged Little Pill?” I just kind of want to make sure I get where the general consensus of our fans are before we talk about it. And one person is like, “I have some feelings about the recasting and reframing of Jo's character from the Boston tryouts to the new Broadway version.” And do you know anything about this, Alan?
ALAN: No, no, I don't. What is it?
JESS: So, in the Boston –
ANDREW: Drama time.
JESS: Yeah, here's drama time. It's interesting. And I can see an argument for all sides of it. And it's something I've been trying to do research on, so I'm not misrepresenting either side in any mean or malicious way because it's just a thing, and art is subjective. But in the Boston tryouts - While currently on Broadway, Jo is a lesbian. She is a lesbian cis woman. In the Boston tryouts, she was non-binary, trans. And she was still played by Lauren. Lauren Patten. And she's wonderful and I've heard great things about her. But a lot of people had issues with her playing a trans non-binary character without her being either of those things themselves. So rather than cast someone else, they decided just to make her lesbian now and get rid of all the character’s innate trans-ness, which a lot of our viewers came out and said that “that's not great and we don't really like that, it was such good representation, and we just kind of wanted a different variant on and then you took it away, and then kind of removed a lot of the nuance from that character.” And me as a cis man, listening to that and hearing them out, I'm like, “Yeah, I get that,” and thinking about the specific lines of the song You Oughta Know: “Is he a perfect version of me? Is he perverted like me, and you can have his baby.” Like, those types of things coming from a trans body where they want to be these things, but they physically can't, those hit a lot harder than, say, the Jo in the current production. And I just think about that and I'm like, “Man, artistically, that feels like a lost opportunity to me.” And it's not like they didn't have a trans person in the cast. They have Lauren's understudy, who is Ezra Menas, who could have very well done the role. So, it's a confusing situation and I feel like it's hard to handle on both sides. What they are now doing is saying that Jo was always a cisgendered person, which just decidedly is not true. And by specific people I'm talking about Diablo Cody specifically who is wonderful and I love her work.
ALAN: Diablo’s publicist, please don't write in.
JESS: Yes, please don't write in. But specifically, I'm quoting playwright Hayley St. James, who has seen both the Broadway run twice and the Off-Broadway Boston tryouts, and was comparing the two and felt like they're being gassed a little bit by the show with them, you know, claiming like, “Oh, no, she was always cis” and then they were like, “I saw the show. I know what I saw.”
ALAN: There's an opportunity to – gosh –
JESS: There's no right answer here. It's just, like, this is a thing that I felt like I would be lost if I didn't bring up at least for our discussion.
ANDREW: And we're already hitting a lot of other topics like that.
ANDREW: It feels odd that they kind of shy away from that topic when they're already hitting all these other ones.
ALAN: Right. And I don't know - Actually, I don't know if I know the producers. I don't know who the producers are in this. But when you look at shows like The Prom, which is centered around a lesbian couple, and the marketing behind that - Of course Dori Berinstein, other co-founder of BPN was the head producer on The Prom. And I asked her once. I said, “Why? Why did the marketing have nothing to do with the LGBTQ+ community?” And the unfortunate situation of show business is that it's a business. And when you've got these tourists coming from other places that may or may not come from countries where it is illegal to be gay, or from the middle of the country that may have voted for the other person that you didn't vote for - When you want their money, how do you market to them? And I wonder what kind of feedback - my guess, when you first started telling me the story, was that they probably got some feedback of like, “this makes us uncomfortable” - as the people who are generally the people who have the money, disposable income to go see Broadway. And so they “fixed” that. I put in air quotes “fixed”, you know.
JESS: Yes, yeah. The alternate to appease them.
ALAN: Right. Right.
ANDREW: Removed, removed.
ALAN: So, we’ve got The Prom, and I don't know if you've discussed Head Over Heels. Did you talk about that show?
JESS: Not yet. That is on my to-do list.
ALAN: Oh, god. I'll come back for that one. I love Head Over Heels.
JESS: We'll save that one for you.
ALAN: I’ll see if we can get Bonnie Milligan on here.
JESS: Oh, that would be a lot of fun.
ALAN: So, loved that show. Peppermint was the first non-binary person to play - No, sorry, I gotta get this right. And I know I won’t. Peppermint was the first trans person to originate a non-binary character on Broadway. I think that's right. And, again, story about lesbians where one of the leads is non-binary. And that was another marketing problem. And then you set it in Renaissance with the music of the Go-Go’s. And it was just like, strike one, strike two, strike three, but the book and the music was phenomenal. It was such a good show, and it pushed boundaries. And you need shows like - you need shows like The Prom, you need shows like Head Over Heels, you need these shows that are sort of trying to get there? And I think maybe in five years, it would have worked to keep Lauren Patten's character as a trans person. But maybe not right now. Pre-2019? 2019? No. Maybe post 2020 because 2020 has been a shit show. Maybe post 2020, it would have worked.
JESS: I mean, I almost tweeted something a little snottier than I probably should have. Yesterday, as of recording this, Elliot Page came out as trans, which is really cool. And just great. I almost tweeted something a little snotty - just as a joke, but I probably shouldn't do that, which was “Hey, at least one Diablo Cody piece will have a transactor” - trans character or whatever. But no, that would have been bad. But I agree with what you're saying. I get what you're saying. But also, it's one of those rare times where I feel like actual character motivation is changed from that change - in a way that I feel is detrimental.
ALAN: Right. Right.
JESS: And that is where it's a different anomaly here than say, just toning down the marketing or something or other.
ALAN: Right, well, yeah. I didn't see the out-of-town, so I don't know how it was, but on Broadway, it is that Lauren Patten is a lesbian and her girlfriend - Frankie, right - is a woman of color who is adopted. And Elizabeth Stanley is her mom in the show. And so, she's ends up being bisexual. So, the whole, “Would he do this? Would he do this? Can he do this?” That makes sense in the context because she's now gone off and started dating and guy and dumped the girl?
JESS: It works both ways. But I can imagine a trans person that saw that original version then comes to Broadway is like, “Oh no, the representation I thought I had is not there anymore.” And it could be for various other reasons which would be like, we got a lot of other stuff here. We got pill addiction. We've got sexual assault. Maybe that was just one thing on the scale too far?
ANDREW: Let’s talk about the pill addiction. I think that - that one is one of the major ones that actually comes to the whole story.
ALAN: Yeah. Elizabeth Stanley, her character is - because of dealing with her sexual assault from her past and everything going on, she gets addicted to painkillers.
JESS: Oh my god. And the staging’s amazing during all of her scenes, like every one of those is so beautifully choreographed.
ANDREW: Yeah. What - does she overdose at the very end or something like that? Yeah, that's pretty serious. There's so much serious stuff in this I don't even know how to talk about it, you know? It's a difficult discussion.
JESS: It is a tightrope to walk and I think this show does it pretty well all things considered. Not one story feels like it's getting more attention than the other or one feels heavier than the other. They all feel very evenly weighted. Unlike other shows that I really love like Next to Normal, where it feels like, “Oh, heavy stuff, then a joke, and then heavy stuff, and then a joke.”
ANDREW: I just feel so bad for the father character in this one.
JESS: Why? He learns to play an Alanis Morissette riff at the end.
ANDREW: That's true. That's true. You know what? Never mind, I don't.
JESS: I am curious if that breaks the world a little bit. Like, when she goes up and reads her poem, isn't it ironic, why isn't one kid like, “Hey, it’s just Alanis Morissette” – if Alanis Morissette exists in this world.
ALAN: Yeah, breaking the fourth wall. But they do make fun of it.
JESS: Yeah, they do.
ANDREW: I mean, they're right. It isn't ironic, right? None of the lyrics are ironic. Which, maybe that's the irony. It's a song called Ironic. And there's all these examples of irony, but none of them are ironic.
JESS: I honestly do - Not to be this guy, but I honestly do think that was Alanis’ intention, to be honest. Like, write a song called ironic about irony. And none of it's ironic. That is the most ironic thing you can do.
ANDREW: It's so ironic.
JESS: She is playing chess, while we're all playing checkers, guys.
ANDREW: 8D chess over here.
JESS: She really is God from Dogma. She is controlling the whole world.
ANDREW: You know what the show doesn't really have much of that you would probably see usually - is where's the cultural backlash from all these issues? You know, we have LGBT characters, but we don't see any of the dude bros beating on them. You know?
JESS: That's not really a thing of modern, young people. It's more microaggressions. That's what this show shows - a lot of the microagressions.
ANDREW: I would argue that it is a thing. It is a thing with younger people, there's a major movement of that kind of right wing, sort of, Ben Shapiro –
JESS: The thing is, I highly believe that is not the majority. That is the minority, and they stay in their little corners. And everyone knows who the white supremacists are in your school, and they hang out in a little corner, and no one talks to them. And then you and your little group and everyone's like, “Oh, it's good.” And they're all well intentioned, but maybe do the wrong thing. Like touch up black girl's hair without permission and all that.
ALAN: Yeah. Microaggressions, lack of understanding or just lack of awareness. I mean, especially these past couple months, where you're hearing these panels and hearing from people of color, who have been through these situations where their whole life, they're just trained to look the other way. And I've got - one of my best friends is a black man who came out to me about six years ago - six, seven years ago I want to say - but all through college, whatever, dated girls, because that's what he was supposed to do and whatnot. Or, that's what he was told he was supposed to do. And now that he's out, he's dating, we talk about all sorts of things. And he's super, super great guy. And I saw him the other day, socially distanced, of course, and we dove into this conversation. And he was just saying, like, as a person of color, your parents are like, “If you ever get pulled over, doesn't matter who you are, how you're dressed, where you are, just hands on 10 and 2. Don't move.” Because all of these things that as a white man, as someone who presents as a white man, I never have to think about, I've never had to think about. And so, seeing Jagged Little Pill, especially as a white man who has been to frat parties, and has been to sort of these situations where I'm like, “Well, that's kind of funky.” And I've actually had to step in, in real life, to remove a female friend of mine from a situation that I thought wasn't, I mean, I thought the dude was just being a jerk.
ANDREW: That happens a lot of times.
ALAN: Yeah, I mean, right. But it's - I don't know kind of where I'm going with this - I'm sort of rambling, but hopefully you get my point in that shows like Jagged Little Pill that, due to all of the subject matter rolled into one, I think it's the right time for the show. I think it's exactly what we needed. And it's gonna hit in a completely different way post-pandemic, because the world has just changed so much in the last year. And it's - I walked out of there thinking about things in a way I had never thought about them before - in a good way, and reflecting back on myself and my own actions.
JESS: I get that. I 100% get that. I had that very similar experience when I listened to A Strange Loop for the first time, which was an eye-opening album for me alone. Like, oh my god, these specific things, like - well, Michael R. Jackson grew up in like my area. I'm from Detroit, Michigan. He's from Detroit, Michigan. So, a lot of the specific references and the types that he portrays there are people I know, and the types that I know, and the people I grew up with. And hearing specifics about their experience that I had no idea about is horrifying and like, “Oh my gosh, I had been in situations like that and seeing that and oh my god.” So I completely understand. The thing is, you said, you were from Colorado, Alan?
ALAN: North Carolina.
JESS: North Carolina.
ALAN: They're like right next to each other. So, I can see –
ANDREW: Basically the same –
JESS: Anywhere that’s not Midwest normal New York area -
ANDREW: You climb to the top of the Rocky Mountains, you can see em both.
ALAN: There's actually a zip line from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rockies. So yeah, you're nice. You're good.
JESS: I just - the frat scene was not something I knew about. Like, even in college and all that.
ALAN: I tried. Because again, I thought that's what you were supposed to do. Okay, if this contextualizes anything: boys’ choir into community theatre into a computer science degree, and in college was the director of my acapella group. So, frat parties for me were an alien world. I was like, you know, what's the dude – “Hello, fellow kids”, but I was a kid but I still didn't know how to act like that. “How do you do, fellow kids?” No, that whole world I was like, “Oh, this is where you go to meet girls.” And then I was like, “Oh, these are the girls I don't want to meet. Okay.” So then I just joined an acapella group and that's where -
JESS: That’s where you meet the ladies. That is where you meet the ladies.
ANDREW: “Men's choir is where I meet all the ladies.”
JESS: You say that but it is the truth. All right, all right. Now, we got our favorite segment. It's Breeviews, where our producer, Bree, usually reviews the New York Times critic reviews and just gives a general sense of how we feel compared to them. But today we're gonna call it Ben's views cus we've got a very special guest in Ben Shapiro, who is gonna read all these reviews.
ANDREW: Oh my god, do I have to do a Ben Shapiro voice the whole time?
JESS: Yes, you do.
ANDREW: Oh god. People like the Ben Shapiro voice.
JESS: They love the bit.
ANDREW: (as Ben Shapiro) All right, hypothetically... (Back to Andrew) Okay, I'm in it now. Are these mean reviews?
JESS: They're not. No, they're pretty fine.
ANDREW: Okay. I feel bad reading them in a Ben Shapiro voice, but here we go then. The New York Times critic Jesse Green says, (Back to Ben Shapiro) “This makes it seem, inaccurately I think, for this is the rare jukebox musical without even a whiff of men- ”
JESS: I don't think you're ready for this. Let me do this.
ANDREW: I'm not. You read this one.
JESS: All right. New York Times critic Jesse Green says, “This makes it seem — inaccurately, I think, for this is the rare jukebox musical without even a whiff of mendacity about it — that the creators’ top goal was to pack in as much of Ms. Morissette’s catalog as possible. Still, “Jagged Little Pill” features an astonishing 22 of her songs, including all 12 from the 1995 album that gives the show its title. (Eight others come from later releases; two are newly written for the occasion.) They sound fantastic, if a little undifferentiated, in Tom Kitt’s arrangements for a 10-piece band.” Which, I don't think that's an unfair thing to say. But I do think - I get what it’s trying to say, but I feel like it doesn't quite say it. It's like “Yeah, they sound a little the same, but they're all written by one person.” Carrousel sounds the same if you go like that. That's unfair when you're talking about musical. It's a uniform piece, cut it out.
ALAN: You know, when you start looking at one big word - I'm just gonna tangent here – you go down this rabbit hole of other big words you have to look up. So, I looked up mendacity, which means untruthfulness. But then, in the example that it gives, is “people publicly castigated for past mendacity” and I was like, okay, “What's castigated mean?”
ALAN: “To reprimand someone severely.” So, if someone was lying, they get the beat down. That's basically what - yeah, okay. Okay, so mendacity is just lying, untruthfulness, dishonesty, deceit.
JESS: All right, Alan - this isn't a really good show to sum that up, but we have a theory at the New York Times, specifically Ben Brantley’s reviews - he only reviews good musicals or musicals that he likes. And when they're bad, he just writes some flowery language nonsense that just says it's bad in, like, three paragraphs.
ALAN: Um, it is nice that he retired.
ANDREW: I hope he enjoys his retirement thoroughly.
ALAN: Andrew as the protagonist – wait, antagonist, the bad guy. Yeah. As the antagonist here, I would feel like you would agree with Ben Brantley a little bit.
ANDREW: Oh, of course, I am the heel of the music theatre worlds. We all know that. Now that now that Ben Brantley is retired, I have to rise up and take his place.
ALAN: Well, do not throw away your shot.
JESS: Oh, “New York Times theatre critic Andrew DeWolf says, ‘Oh, I dunno, it was fine.’”
ANDREW: It was fine, I guess. If you like shit.
ALAN: Favorite things I heard, Jimi from Jim and Tomic, he was reviewing the Cats movie, and he says, “Well, I didn't not like it.”
JESS: I mean, that's as fair as you can say about - if you like the Cats musical, which I know that Jimi does, that is a representation of what that musical is, for better or worse.
ANDREW: I feel like the Cats movie is honestly maybe the best version of the show.
ALAN: I would not disagree with you, depending on how many substances you're on when you go to see it.
JESS: The thing is, when I saw the Cats movie, I watched it and I was way too drunk. And I went home and I’m like, “Did I see what I saw?” And I had to go back and see it again sober to make sure I saw the things I saw.
ALAN: Did you see the unfinished version or the finished version?
JESS: I saw both. I saw the unfinished one because I saw it the night it came out. And that - very drunk - and I was like, “I don't remember - is that it? Or was that my hallucinating?” So, I saw it again. I was not hallucinating.
ALAN: No, no, CG errors. You saw shoes on the bottom of human feet. You saw – oh god, it was bad.
ANDREW: It was a great show.
ALAN: The final cut was not delivered until three hours before the first premiere. And my theory on this is that it came out the same day as Star Wars, right? So, the good visual effects houses were off doing Star Wars and then what was left had to work on Cats.
JESS: Well, the thing is, they were trying to do very good counterprogramming, like they did with The Greatest Showman, which made like a shitzillion dollars and they premiered it right against The Last Jedi. And both saw very good results from that. So they're like, “Alright, we're gonna do the Wicked – next, in that year.” They’re like “no, no, no, no, Tom Hooper wants to do Cats, and we don't have anything prepared for Wicked. So we're gonna push Cats forward.”
ALAN: Yikes, well -
JESS: Imagine, we could have had a Wicked movie last year. Think about that.
ANDREW: Even if the visual effects were perfect, that movie would still be awful.
ALAN: It was just not - I mean, this is the episode about Cats, but - I just want a wide shot. I want one damn wide shot to establish the choreography and stop cutting between all these tight shots. It's a frickin show about dance. So, we can't see the dancing in a show about dance. Not that there's a plot in the first place. They had to create a plot for the movie.
ANDREW: They didn't have to. They could have just done a dancing show. You don't have to create a plot just because it's a movie but -
JESS: We gotta do our second review - hold on. The Rolling Stone’s Jerry Portwood states, “Sure, the production wears its earnestness on its sleeve. But it does it so honestly and openly that I forgive it. It’s like a spoiled teenager you want to throttle for being so self-involved and whiny but can’t quite reject because of its enthusiastic beauty and unspoiled passion. As its name has always so annoyingly suggested, Jagged Little Pill is that essential bitter medicine that — despite our jaded impulses — must be swallowed and enjoyed so we can be cured.” What the fuck does that mean?
ANDREW: Is he trying to say that like, you have to watch it –
JESS: You have to watch it to be better as a human being despite the fact that it's so pretentious - I guess is what he's trying to say?
ALAN: I can't even fathom what he's trying to get across. You lost me and I started paying attention to how you're doing the voice. That was more impressive. No, but if he's saying what you think he's saying, I agree that - it kind of made my point earlier, right? In that you have to see it all to process it because hearing the cast album, you don't quite figure it all out but you have to swallow it. You have to ingest it visually in its entirety to get the full picture and I agree with that. I agree with that. Plus one.
JESS: I would never say -
ANDREW: A spoiled teenager that you want to throttle.
JESS: that's the specific line. I'm like, “Who wants to throttle a teenager?” Okay, Boomer.
ALAN: Oh, I've been throttled. I was a horrible teenager.
JESS: I doubt that. You seem like a joy.
ALAN: Oh, no, I was a little shit. I can't wait for my kids to follow in my footsteps.
ANDREW: The teenagers should be miserable -
JESS: Speaking of throttling teenagers, let’s go into a mid-show announcement and show you these ads that 100% do not support throttling teenagers. Let's take a listen.
ANDREW: All right, time to talk about the music. We've made it this far without –
JESS: We really didn't talk about any of the music.
ALAN: There's music in the musical?
ANDREW: Oh, yeah, I think so. I don't remember much of it. But I'm pretty sure there's some in there.
ALAN: Basically every answer is You Oughta Know.
JESS: Yes, the answer is you oughta know. But this is more or less a classic musical theatre structure. Like, no one really writes a pop song with the word “I want” except apparently Alanis Morissette because we start really with “All I really want”, which is Frankie, Mary, Jo’s, Steve - everyone's “I want” song. And it works. It somehow works.
(All I Really Want plays)
ANDREW: All right, Jess, so if this is the “I want” song, who's the main character?
JESS: I think Frankie is the main character in terms of the story. Because she has the “I want” song and she leads the “I want” song. Yeah, everyone else chimes in with what they want but she is the leading force of the “I want” song. And she kind of is the black sheep of the family and the story so to say - she is the one thing out, and the one thing not really connected to specifically the mother and the son story.
ALAN: Well, the story follows the mom, though.
JESS: It does, but - She is the first person we see, but I have a theory that I basically have shoved down everyone's throat since the very first episode that the “I want” song is the main character and there are very few delineations from that. And that can lead to a lot of discussion between this. Like, is the “I want” song from Fiddler on the Roof Matchmaker, which would logically line up as the second song in the show and they actually get what they want? Or If I Was A Rich Man that comes after Matchmaker because that is Tevya’s song, but he does not get what he wants? So, who is truly the main character with the set in stone goals that the story -
ANDREW: Fiddler’s long enough that all of them are the main character.
JESS: It's not an ensemble piece, though. It is not an ensemble piece.
ALAN: Well, do you call – Okay, so then Jagged Little Pill being told through the perspective of the mother like Fiddler's told through the perspective of Tevya - is Jagged Little Pill an ensemble show?
JESS: It is. I think it is an ensemble show, but the main story arc is told through Frankie in my opinion.
ALAN: Hmm Hmm. I think we have to agree to disagree here.
JESS: Which is fine. We love doing that on the show. Me and Andrew leave, like, practically angry at –
ANDREW: I'm actually gonna lean towards Jess. I do think Frankie is the lead in most cases here.
ALAN: I wonder though if - and I'm playing devil's advocate because I don't know what I think on this - is because maybe Frankie has more of the - maybe I'm making your point for you. Frankie has more of the conflict. So are more of the issues that we're working through as an audience, we're going on more of Frankie's journey, but it's being told through the eyes of the mother. So, I think I may agree with you now.
ANDREW: Everything ties to Frankie.
JESS: Frankie's the only one that has like, “I'm gonna go get my goal”, where everyone else is like, “Things are thrust upon me to have to face my demons”. As opposed to Frankie, “I'm gonna go get the thing.”
ALAN: Yes, yes. Okay, I see your point. I see your point. And maybe I agree with you. But I'm not gonna say I agree with you.
JESS: Not publicly. You won’t write that down.
ALAN: Remember at the beginning where we were like, “We'll say things we regret.” Yeah, I'm not gonna say that.
JESS: I will never put on paper that I agree with Jess McAnally.
ANDREW: That is the right attitude.
JESS: So, what do we think about All I Really Want?
ALAN: Are you asking me?
JESS: Yeah, everyone. This is for everyone around the table.
ALAN: Well, I'm waiting for patrons to pipe in here.
ANDREW: So, I'm gonna say a lot of the music and this is kind of samey to me.
JESS: Oh, you sound just like the New York Times review.
ANDREW: I'm agreeing with the New York Times critic, in a way, but I don't know. I don't think it's because of the arrangements though. I think it's just because of the style of music. A lot of these songs are meant to sound similar because they're all from the same album for same artist.
ALAN: In the same timeframe. Yeah, I agree. I agree with that. I didn't find anything wrong with it. Because if you have songs that all sound completely different, then if they don't sound connected, you know? There's no musical through line.
ANDREW: I think that there can be some - I like it when there's some differentiation between like, “Hey, this character gets this sort of instrument in there. And they have this different sound to go with them.” But it all has to tie in eventually. But with these kind of pop musicals, it's always just like, songs. They're meant to be fun. And that's it. You know? And it works.
ALAN: I – go ahead.
JESS: Um, I don't remember what I was saying. Go ahead, Alan.
ALAN: No, the –
ANDREW: Well, what do you got?
ALAN: The pop style, it's interesting, because when you look back to sort of the history, there's, you know, Rent changed - Rent was like the end of the British invasion, because it was, you know, Cats and all these other, you know, Sondheim, and these big shows that were all from guys in Britain - and then Rent came along composed by this guy, written by this guy that nobody heard of, and all sudden, it just changed, everything was rock from that point on. And then now, Hamilton came out. And now you're getting, you're getting representation. Aside from music, music aside, you're starting to get a lot more representation, you're starting to get a lot more, you know, like the R&B and a little bit more of the new type, you know, I'll put in air quotes, the “new type” of music, but you know, everything cycles through over the decades. So, Hamilton's changing it again. And then I love how, again, in the scene all together with the lighting, with the costumes, with the story, the music works, and I never thought to myself, “Oh, this is the same thing I just heard.” It was pop, yes. Which I am personally a fan of.
ANDREW: I like pop music as well. I'm not saying the music is bad. Pop music itself, though, is meant to be commercial. And it's meant to be kind of something you can listen to easily. So, there's not always a lot of thematic depth to music that is written in that style. And I think that you see that a little bit with this, where there's - I don't think you could point to any character and say that they have a theme that comes back for them musically in this show - I could be wrong.
JESS: I think the closest we get is Frankie and Ironic plays quite often with her, that we set up as her piece, so to say. So, that is the closest one. Aside from that, not particularly.
ANDREW: Yeah. Whereas in other shows written by those British invasion type, guys, yeah. They always have like a theme for characters that comes back and weaves its way in.
JESS: Don't you dare give Andrew Lloyd Webber that much credit. He writes five songs, repeats them, and calls it a musical.
ANDREW: That's true. I mean, those five songs are attached to different characters, though, I mean.
JESS: No, no, they aren’t. Sometimes Raoul starts singing the manager’s song, like, what's going on?
ANDREW: You're right. You're right. You're right. I'm giving him too much credit. You’re right.
JESS: Now, if you were gonna say Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, they're not perfect, but they do write themes for specific characters, and they only come up for that character.
ANDREW: Now that's not the only thing though. I think the other part is that this is a jukebox show. So, these songs were written before the show was going to happen. So, obviously they weren't even considering that this would be a possibility when they were writing the songs.
JESS: Boy, that sounds ironic. Let's talk about Ironic.
ALAN: Ironic is great because they're there in the scene in the school room and she's reading off this poem that she's written and, again, we talked about this earlier - is that it's not actually ironic and that gets called out in the scene. You hear it in the in the album, is that some guy’s like, “Actually, that's not ironic” and so, you know, you get a whole laugh about it, because that's the thing that as growing up, being a child of the 80s, we talked about the whole time. We're like, “Oh, that's not ironic.” And so now seeing that on stage, we’re like, “hahaha, validation, pat on the back.”
JESS: You know, I wish they had done the thing that we did, which is the irony is that none of this is ironic, despite it being called Ironic. And then I’d be like, “Fuck, that’s deep.” Diablo Cody, you should have come out of here with that.
ANDREW: “That’s deep bro, that's deep.”
JESS: “That's deep. That's deep.” I like the song. I really really liked the orchestration specifically to this song cus - let me go into this. Before I listened to this musical, I'd only known two Alanis Morissette songs. One is Ironic, one is You Oughta Know.
ALAN: Mm hmm.
JESS: So, hearing this, “Oh, this is different. This feels like part of a story. It's great.”
ANDREW: I think the only thing I don't like about this song is the interruption is funny-ish at first, but they kind of keep doing it.
ANDREW: And it's like, “Okay, you got the joke in. Can we listen to this song now, you know?”
ALAN: Yeah, I went in expecting that to be one of the main “Whoa” numbers and the fact that they underplayed it so much - I actually really, really liked it. Because it's set up -
ANDREW: I was expecting the reprise at the end of Act Two, but never happened.
JESS: They should have had more reprises throughout the show, in all honesty. I feel like that's the one thing that jukebox musicals never do but should do.
ANDREW: Is reprise? Well, doing a reprise would actually alleviate some of what I was saying, where they don't have themes that come back, because if they do a reprise, then it does come back.
JESS: You know what musical does do reprises and is a jukebox musical and is super effective with it, which is why it's better than the first one? Is Mamma Mia 2.
ANDREW: Mamma Mia 2?
ALAN: There’s a Mamma Mia 2?
JESS: Yeah, it came out in theatres. It was the movie sequel to the movie.
ANDREW: Jess is actually a big Mamma Mia stan.
JESS: I am not a Mamma Mia stan. I think that second movie is really good.