Nineties grunge meets musical theatre
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Stuart Miller. From left: Emily Nkomo, Tim Draxl, Natalie Bassingthwaighte and Liam Head star as The Healys in Jagged Little Pill.
Stuart Miller. From left: Emily Nkomo, Tim Draxl, Natalie Bassingthwaighte and Liam Head star as The Healys in Jagged Little Pill.
Live entertainment

Nineties grunge meets musical theatre

Even those who aren’t Alanis Morissette fans will love the award-winning musical Jagged Little Pill which is finally opening in Australia. The AJN spoke to Tim Draxl about how it feels to be back on stage with live audiences and the very real themes the musical addresses.

Main image by Stuart Miller. From left: Emily Nkomo, Tim Draxl, Natalie Bassingthwaighte and Liam Head star as The Healys in Jagged Little Pill.

When most people hear the title Jagged Little Pill, the assumption is that this is a musical based on the life of ’90s grunge pop artist Alanis Morissette. But this is most definitely not the case. The project was in development for years before it appeared on Broadway with Morissette adamant that the production is not about her.

“She wanted a musical written with this music, but she didn’t want it to be about her. The way writer Diablo Cody [whose credits include Juno and Tully] has interwoven the music into this show and into this story, it’s quite genius,” said Tim Draxl who stars as Steve Healy alongside multi-award winner Natalie Bassingthwaighte as Mary Jane Healy, Emily Nkomo as Frankie Healy and Liam Head as Nick Healy.

“When you watch the show, it seems as though the music was written specifically for this story.”

Draxl, an acclaimed film, TV and stage actor and recording artist, is thrilled to finally be back on stage in front of live audiences, and even more excited to be reopening the iconic Theatre Royal in Sydney, before travelling to Melbourne in January.

“It’s the first place that my mother took me to see a musical theatre show, The Phantom of the Opera,” he said. “This theatre is being given a new life, the industry is being given a new life, and this particular piece is about healing as well. It’s a beautiful trinity of serendipity.”

There’s a transaction that happens in live theatre that you don’t get in film or television. It’s thrilling. There’s nothing like that rush of adrenaline.

Draxl describes Jagged Little Pill as a different form of musical. Rather than a musical theatre love story, the production can be quite dark at times.

Jagged Little Pill centres on the Healy family and Mary Jane’s efforts to keep up the perfect family image. Meanwhile she’s addicted to painkillers, her husband Steve is addicted to pornography, daughter Frankie is exploring her sexuality and their son Nick is suffering under the extreme pressures from his mother who believes he’s the only thing she has ever done right.

“It’s about starting conversations and getting people to look at their own way that they deal with things in their lives, and perhaps be inspired to make change,” Draxl explained, which is exactly how he remembers the original Morissette album that he listened to as a teenager.

“It really spoke to people of that level of wanting to break out and reject the norm, to find your own inner voice,” he recalled.

“It was about self-discovery and self-questioning, and all of those themes are in this show.”

It is, in fact, what drew the resident performer to the show.

“Although it uses Alanis’s lyrics and her music, it’s a real theatre piece. It’s an actor’s piece. The scenes in the show are so perfectly constructed and the journey that each of these characters goes on and the change you see by the end of the show, it’s really powerful and uplifting.”

Draxl believes that given what the world has been through over the past couple of years, it’s a show that will really speak to people.

As for finally being back on stage, Draxl said it a huge relief for many artists.

“Our industry was one of the hardest hit and with the least government support. It was pretty bleak there for a very long time,” he said.

“But here we are and there’s an incredible sense of excitement, a hunger for creating something really special.”

Interestingly, Jagged Little Pill, which received 15 Tony Nominations including Best Musical for the Broadway production and won Best Musical Theatre Album at the 2021 Grammy Awards, is constantly being refined, keeping the cast on their toes.

The cast and crew simply want it to be perfect for audiences, especially as Australia finds its way back into theatres. Draxl is most excited to interact with audiences again, calling it human connection through storytelling.

“There’s a transaction that happens in live theatre that you don’t get in film or television. It’s thrilling. There’s nothing like that rush of adrenaline,” he said. “Everyone is hungry for it, not just as performers but as audience members too. It’s going to be quite spectacular and something we’ll always remember.”

Jagged Little Pill is at the Theatre Royal, Sydney from December 2-19 and at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne from January 2. Bookings: jaggedmusical.com

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