Arts and Culture

The Broadway musical “Jagged Little Pill,” which takes its name and inspiration from the 1995 Alanis Morissette album, launches its national tour this week in Louisville.

The show ran on Broadway in New York City from late 2019 through December of 2021, earning two Tonys and a Grammy. It opens Wednesday at the Kentucky Center in downtown Louisville, with a second performance Thursday. 

When asked why launch a tour from Louisville, Eva Price, one of the show’s lead producers, said, “Why not?”

“I have now been here just a couple days and the coffee is great, the people are nice, the facility is fantastic,” Price told WFPL News. “It’s a vibrant arts community.”

Though a major factor was also that the Kentucky Center checked a number of boxes for the creative and production team. 

“From the lights, the sound, stage footprint to how it feels inside the theater, we want an example of a building… that makes sense for the roadmap of where we’re touring to,” said Price, who has worked on a number of Broadway shows and tours.

“We are so excited to host the launch of the national tour of Jagged Little Pill right here in Louisville,” PNC Broadway in Louisville president Leslie Broecker said in a news release. 

Broecker credited Kentucky Performing Arts as a key partner in making the launch happen from Louisville. 

In the same release, KPA leadership also noted the collaboration between the organizations. 

“Working together, we were able to attract the launch of the ‘Jagged Little Pill’ tour, providing the opportunity to shine a national spotlight on the commonwealth,” KPA president and CEO Kim Baker said.

The musical follows the Healy family, which appears idyllic from the outside but is, in fact, struggling through trauma and addiction. It features tracks off Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” as well as a few songs from her other albums and some original music written for the live show.

In the weeks leading up to opening, the cast and crew has been going through scene-by-scene and cue-by-cue in the show to make sure it’s not only ready for opening night in Louisville, but ready to tour to dozens of other cities. 

“The technical process is similar, we still have to go through every beat,” Price said of getting a show theater-ready for a long run in a single venue in comparison to touring. 

“The difference, I’d say, is the equipment, the way it goes in and what is utilized in that physical production footprint… It would be impossible to load in a set that has 100 backdrops and all of these moving pieces because how can you then unload that, put it in a truck, and then in two days, loaded back all out of that truck, onto a stage and a day later have an audience,” she said.

“Jagged Little Pill” is eligible for up to $364,807 in refundable tax credits from the Kentucky Entertainment Incentive Program, according to a 2022 KEI report, after meeting the statutory qualification requirements

Price said Kentucky “has done an extraordinary job creating incentives for new shows to launch here.” 

“And a lot of new projects like to take advantage of that,” she said.

Last year, the state legislature tightened the guidelines on its film and entertainment production incentive after lawmakers made it refundable again – it has been a source of controversy for years. 

Proponents of the program have said it generates jobs and economic opportunities for Kentucky communities, while opponents, such as the executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, have said these tax credits are “highly ineffective and expensive.”

“Jagged Little Pill” has dealt with its own controversies. 

The show’s creative team faced criticism for its handling of the character Jo’s gender identity as the musical transitioned from its pre-Broadway run in Boston to New York City. 

According to The Brooklyn Rail, the character had they/them pronouns in its previous iteration, and scenes in the show portrayed the character as nonbinary or gender fluid. But after the show moved to Broadway, the cis actor playing the character told Vulture, “Jo never was written as anything other than cis.” Critics of, what appeared to be, a change in Jo’s gender identity called it “erasure.”

On Sept. 17, 2021, the show’s lead producers, including Price, posted a statement to the “Jagged Little Pill” website to address the concerns. 

“We want to recognize the reasonable and deeply felt upset around the issues of transparency and accountability and the character of Jo… we set out to portray a character on a gender expansive journey without a known outcome. Throughout the creative process, as the character evolved and changed, between Boston & Broadway, we made mistakes in how we handled this evolution,” the producers wrote.

The producers listed several actions they had taken, including hiring a new dramaturgical team with “nonbinary, transgender, and BIPOC representation.” 

You can read the full statement here

The Broadway run also had allegations against it from a cast member that prompted an investigation into the Broadway production by Actors, Equity Association, a national labor union for actors and stage managers. 

Actors’ Equity communications director David Levy told WFPL, in an email, the investigation concluded in early January and they “found no evidence” corroborating the accusations in that case, but that an investigator did find “that the production could have better ensured a safe workplace in a variety of ways that align with industry best practices.”

Several actors left the show before its re-opening on Broadway after COVID-related shutdowns over the controversies, Forbes reported.

Editor’s Note: Louisville Public Media is a sponsor of “Jagged Little Pill.”

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.