Jagged Little Pill opens in Sydney this December in the newly refurbished Theatre Royal with an incredible cast and hit-after-hit soundtrack. The Sentinel spoke with lead actor Tim Draxl about this much anticipated musical. By Rita Bratovich.
“It’s quite ingenious the way it’s constructed. The way it uses the music and how the music further tells the story about these people,” says Tim Draxl, explaining why Jagged Little Pill is not your typical jukebox musical.
The show uses songs from Alanis Morissette’s phenomenally popular 1995 album of the same name, as well as from her other albums and a handful of new tunes. While the original lyrics are mostly preserved, the treatment, application and performance of the songs infuses them with new meaning.
“The music and the way the music has been orchestrated and arranged vocally and with the band is really quite incredible. It’s a re-imagining of Alanis’ music and it’s done so well,” says Draxl.
The story is intense: a wannabe all-American family living in Connecticut, putting on a pretence of perfection while trying to suppress the demons that start surfacing through the cracks.
It deals with enough heavy duty material to warrant several trigger warnings: drug addiction, sexual abuse, gender identity, inequality, fractured trust. The cast regularly goes through a checking in/checking out process to ensure they feel mentally and emotionally safe.
However, Draxl assures audiences that ultimately the show is redemptive and uplifting.
“At the core of it, it’s about healing and it’s about people living their truths and facing their truths. It’s very powerful … It’s been an amazing journey for me and I think for all of us because some of these topics are topics that we can relate to, some are things that none of us have experience with,” he says.
“I’ve never worked on a show that is so inclusive, that talks openly about the cast members and is supportive of the cast members as this show is. The creative team and the producers are going above and beyond to make everyone feel included, heard, and seen.”
Draxl emphasises that, notwithstanding the confronting content, the show is in fact very entertaining and contains moments of genuine humour. It’s also quite inventive and contains elements of magic. For instance, the ensemble acts as a kind of Greek chorus called The Conscience. They speak as the inner voice of the lead characters. Sometimes chorus members step out and morph into an avatar of one the characters.
Draxl is excited to be working with Natalie Bassingthwaighte for the first time in his career. He had never even met her prior to their first rehearsal together.
“She’s incredible!” says Draxl. “She’s got such an incredible, beautiful energy and such a wonderful spirit. And she’s just fun. You know, for a show that deals with some very serious and very heavy topics, she’s always making us laugh and keeping everyone’s spirits up. That attitude trickles down from the top and she’s doing it beautifully.”
Despite the intensity of it, Draxl is finding Jagged Little Pill cathartic, especially given the year that’s been. He had a long and fraught relationship with A Chorus Line, rehearsing the lead, Zach, and getting primed for the season only to have it close down almoston the eve of opening night – twice! He faced the artist’s dilemma of waiting for the rescheduling of A Chorus Line or making himself available for other roles.
“The uncertainty was really crushing,” he says. “You always have to keep your eye out for opportunities, it’s a tough business.”
Jagged Little Pill was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down. Add to that the thrill of being in the first production to play in the newly refurbished Theatre Royal.
“So excited, oh my God! I’ve never performed at the Theatre Royal. It’s where I saw my first ever musical when I was a kid. It was with my mum, my mum took me to see Phantom of the Opera back in the ‘90s. So I’m so excited to be in the space that really triggered my love of musical theatre.”
Jagged Little Pill plays Theatre Royal, 108 King Street, Sydney from Thursday, 2 December, 2 to Sunday, 19th December, 2021. Information and bookings at: www.jaggedmusical.com.
Rita Bratovich is the arts and entertainment editor of the Sydney Sentinel.