How Academy award-winning writer Diablo Cody turned a hit song into a book that’s now a musical 

Jagged Little Pill Comes to PPAC in January

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Jagged Little Pill, a jukebox musical inspired by the songs of Alanis Morissette, is headed to the Providence Performing Arts Center this month. The Tony and Grammy-Award winning production was written by Diablo Cody, the award-winning screenwriter of Juno, Jennifer’s Body, and One Mississippi, among other works. 

“I was approached about this project in 2017,” Cody explains. “There was already a creative team in place. We had a wonderful director, Diane Paulus, and of course Alanis was on board. I'm a huge fan of Alanis, but we all know how a Broadway musical based on a pop album can go wrong. I didn’t want it to be cheesy, but when I saw the other creatives who were involved, I thought this could actually be cool.” The next step in the process was to meet with Morissette “I was a little starstruck and nervously stammered a few ideas at her, and miraculously she chose me to help her deliver this baby.”

If you have tickets, don't expect to see a biopic of Morissette. The show is written as an original story informed by the singer’s emotional lyrics. “The story is inspired by the lyrical content of the songs,” explains Diablo. “After listening to Jagged Little Pill, an album that I heard countless times as a teenager, I realized that many of the songs had a protagonist in them. There's a song called ‘Mary Jane’ that comes near the end of the album. It’s a really interesting character piece. When I heard that, I decided the protagonist of the show would be Mary Jane. She's this suburban housewife who's hiding something. All the other characters seem to just emerge from the music. It was a fun process.”

Cody describes how writing for stage is different from writing for film. “I have to say the stage has ruined me for life, because the process is so much better for the writer. You get to make adjustments constantly, you’re a part of the preview process where you watch the show every night to see how people in the audience are responding. You can’t do that with a movie – reshoots are very expensive. I had no idea how limiting the filmmaking process was until I worked on a Broadway show.”

The production is personality driven, says Cody. “Everybody seems to align themselves with a certain character. You identify with the one that speaks to your life experience, your joy, and your trauma.” Much like the album, Jagged Little Pill is a powerful show that addresses issues of drug abuse and suicide. “It's definitely not a light-hearted evening of theater. But the hope is that it’s ultimately uplifting, and people leave feeling inspired, a kind of communal therapeutic experience.”

Not a fan of Morissette? No worries, says Cody. “I've taken people from different walks of life to see it. If you've ever been a part of a family, you’ll find something to relate to. And if you are a fan of Alanis, you're gonna lose your mind.”

Jagged Little Pill runs at Providence Performing Center January 17 – 22. PPACRI.org, 220 Weybosset Street.

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