So I try to stay away from clichés, mostly because they’re hacky, but also because I don’t find them super useful. Usually they don’t articulate much about the situation – unless they’re super insightful, and then they do, but make me seem like a hypocrite.
All this to say that the phrase ‘trust your gut’ keeps coming to mind as I read about the plans for the Jagged Little Pill Musical. But I’m not sure I should, or that my gut is right.
A musical based on an album that almost anyone currently 30-50 years old can belt from memory, written about a family, with a book (script, or non-sung parts) by Diablo Cody.
So this should be a sure thing. Right?
Or… a sure thing for musical lovers?
Or… a sure thing for people who love that Alanis Morissette album, which really is almost everyone?
Look, it’s all very well for the snark part of me to bump against the musical-theatre loving part of me, and there are Diablo Cody jokes I’m leaving on the floor. Someone with fewer scruples than me is absolutely composing a ‘homeskillet’ joke as we speak.
But for me, I think maybe my misgiving is about a moment in time. A few years ago I saw the American Idiot musical, and while the story there kind of fit with the music, it just felt so very much… of its time, in a way that didn’t do it any favours. I wanted to say ‘stop whining, 90s kid’ and I am a 90s kid. This could just be because the story was written by Billie Joe Armstrong himself, and he was too close to it, but it didn’t exactly resonate… or feel updated enough to matter.
That’s not the case with Jagged Little Pill, and Diablo Cody, a writer who I feel is very, very unfairly maligned for having had early success. But we all know the album so well that putting new emphasis on the songs might make them feel…I don’t know, forced? Cheesy? If you’ve always thought Ironic would only work on a road trip, how are you going to feel if it’s about the slow dissolution of a marriage? (I don’t know, I’m guessing.)
Then again, by the same token, how great will it be if the far underappreciated Perfect finally gets a moment in the sun? Sure, it’s overtly and exactly about teen and family angst, but who among us is still trying their best to grow out of that?
Ultimately, Jagged Little Pill has gone from life soundtrack to comic punchline to nostalgia piece to an essential part of many of our musical biographies. On the one hand, I don’t want to see anything happen to it… like what happened to Dirty Dancing recently. On the other hand, for an entire generation of people, it is ‘the feels’ in so many words – so I could convince myself to come down on the side of ‘Happy it’s getting it’s due, even if I’m not yet convinced this is the right venue.’
Most importantly, as a musical theatre venture with those names attached, it won’t be boring – or quiet. Which is what screaming that album made you promise you’d never be so… that alone seems like a promise being kept.