Monumental Theatre’s Brilliant Production of American Psycho, the Musical, Taps Into the Twisted Mind of a Serial Killer

Monumental Theatre’s Brilliant Production of American Psycho, the Musical, Taps Into the Twisted Mind of a Serial Killer

American Psycho
Monumental Theatre
Jordan Wright
July 12, 2024

Kyle Dalsimer and the Cast of American Psycho (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

Set in the financial center of New York City during the high-flying, coke-fueled 1980’s when young bucks ruled Wall Street, American Psycho personifies that high-flying era of über excess and inglorious greed within a corporate coliseum. Monumental Theatre turns this story into an immersive and highly sensory experience, seating the audience within mere feet of the action. For those familiar with the stage or film version, this is a far more intense experience. I had my doubts before going, but I can say it is one of the most memorably visceral productions I’ve ever seen.

L-R Kyle Dalsimer, RJ Pavel, Jeremy Crawford, Stephen Russell Murray, and Carson Young (Photo/ Christopher Mueller)

There is an immediacy of place as soon as you enter. The walls are covered with pleated plastic sheeting as in a crime scene and there is a bar serving cocktails. Red banquettes with small tables are positioned closest to the stage. (When you go online to purchase tickets, you can decide if you want to be close or in the risers.) A stunning and quite stylish DJ, Tobi Osibodu, overlooks the scene from a raised booth. She not only plays keyboard and grooves to the beat but handles the techno club music as well as backgrounding the musical numbers using a state-of-the-art technique called Ableton Live Programming.

Kyle Dalsimer (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

Fair warning: There is blood and lots of it. The anti-hero, 26-year-old Patrick Bateman, is a serial killer extraordinaire – an obsessive-compulsive, label-obsessed (“You Are What You Wear”) freak and narcissist. He manifests as a sociopath with a grand plan for ridding the world of his competition, or in fact, anyone he disapproves of. Patrick has mommy issues, worships Donald Trump and has a fabulously wealthy girlfriend, Evelyn (Jordyn Taylor), who ignores his murderous rants and uses him as arm candy on her Hamptons’ weekend jaunts.  This is a man who dreams of slaughter when his friends dream of mistletoe. As for his friends and co-workers, they’re far too busy clawing their way to the top to take him seriously. Only his secretary, Jean, whom he abuses daily, sticks with him. This is straight up crime drama set to music. It is both emotional and cerebral, and you can’t look away for a millisecond.

The Cast of American Psycho (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

As Patrick’s depersonalization of his world and his insatiable appetite for bloodlust increase, his ability to conjure new ways to murder becomes front of mind. Kyle Dalsimer is sensational in his portrayal of the frenzied serial killer. His performance is award-winning and riveting times a thousand. He is so utterly believable in the role I’d hate to be his real-life neighbor. The entire ensemble is tight. Their voices are like a fine choir so seamlessly do they blend in the ballads as well as the pop-rock numbers. Brilliantly directed by Michael Windsor, this production is a tour de force for this small but mighty theater company who have garnered 28 Helen Hayes Award nominations with two wins in their short nine years of operation.

Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart!

Kyle Dalsimer and Sarah Stewart (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

With Noah Mutterperl as Paul et al, Jeremy Allen Crawford as Luis/et al, Carson Young as Van Patten/et al, Stephen Russell Murray as McDermott/et al, Kaeli Patchen as Jean, Sarah Stewart as Courtney /et al, Jessica Barraclough as Sabrina/et al, Valerie Nagel as Christine/et al, Sydne Lyons as Mrs. Bateman/et al, and Cam Powell and Deema Turkomani as swings.

Scenic Design by Michael Windsor and Laura Valenti, Music Design by Marika Countouris, Choreography by Ahmad Maaty, Lighting Design by Helen Garcia-Alton, Costume Design by Elizabeth Morton, Projection Design by Julian Kelley, Fight and Intimacy Direction by Bess Kaye, Dance Captain Jessica Barraclough.

Through July 21st at Ainslie Arts Center, 3900 Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA 22302. For tickets visit www.MonumentalTheatre.org/American-Psycho

Kennedy Center to Celebrate MLK, JR.’s Legacy with Headliners

Kennedy Center to Celebrate MLK, JR.’s Legacy with Headliners

Nolan Williams Hosts MLK, Jr. Celebration in Song
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Jordan Wright
January 10, 2023

(Photo/The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)

 In a musical tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Kennedy Center will host a celebration of King’s legacy. As an integral part of the Center’s Millennium Stage performance series, the annual program, co-hosted by Georgetown University will feature a musical performance by Jordin SparksNolan Williams, Jr. and Cécile McLorin Salvant accompanied by pianist Sullivan Joseph Fortner, Jr. and backed by the Let Freedom Ring Choir led by Music Producer, Nolan Williams, Jr.

Held in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, a highlight of the program will be William’s, Jr.’s “Rise Up and Fight”, a civic anthem composed to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer.

Nolan Williams Jr.

Nolan Williams, Jr. is best described as a creative force. An award-winning producer, music director, composer/lyricist, playwright, filmmaker, musicologist, and cultural curator, the multi-hyphenate Williams, Jr. has dedicated his professional career to creating works that illuminate issues of civil rights, social justice, and cultural curiosities. His body of work includes choral/orchestral works premiered by major American orchestras; music for television; the bestselling African American Heritage Hymnal (over 500,000 copies sold worldwide); songwriting credits on two Grammy®-nominated projects; arts and educational festivals produced in partnership with the Kennedy Center and Philadelphia’s Mann Center; cultural programming developed with the Smithsonian, U.S. State Department, and multiple embassies; video/documentary projects, including the star-studded viral video “I Have A Right To Vote” (over two million global media hits); “Becoming Douglass Commonwealth” (winner of ten media prizes); and a slate of theatrical productions, including his critically-hailed new musical Grace – winner of eleven 2022 Broadway World Washington, D.C. awards, including Best Musical and Best New Musical).

(Read my review of Grace here – https://whiskandquill.com/grace)

Local DC resident, Williams, Jr. is CEO of NEWorks Productions, a leading producer of impact-arts programming and entertainment since 2003. He has given musical leadership to this Let Freedom Ring concert since the same year.

In 2019, Williams, Jr. was named the Kennedy Center’s inaugural Social Practice Resident.

Jordin Sparks

Jordin Sparks is a Grammy® nominated, multi-platinum singer-songwriter and actress who, in one of the show’s highest-rated seasons, garnered worldwide attention as the winner of season six of American Idol. Cumulatively, Sparks’ popular singles have sold over 10 million digital tracks in the U.S. Sparks is also a gifted songwriter. Arianna Grande’s smash single, “The Way,” was co-written by Sparks and earned her a B.M.I. songwriting award. She has toured with superstars Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, The Jonas Brothers, New Kids on The Block, and the Backstreet Boys and headlined her own tour.

Sparks has garnered two B.E.T. Awards, one American Music Award, and one People’s Choice Award, and has been nominated for two MTV Awards and a Grammy®. She made her Broadway debut starring in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash, In the Heights, and made her film debut playing the lead role in the SONY Pictures film Sparkle, opposite the legendary Whitney Houston. Sparks‘s positive body image, message, and success have impacted people worldwide. She considers philanthropy an integral part of her life and was recently profiled by CNN Heroes and Dress for Success for her charity work.

She has since returned to the Broadway stage as the lead in the TONY® award-winning Waitress with music by Sara Bareilles, to critical acclaim, and Executive-Produced and starred in Hallmark’s, A Christmas Treasure. She is a sought-after successful social media influencer due to her impressive social media following. She has also successfully transitioned into network broadcasting hosting/co-hosting on some of television’s most iconic programs, such as NBC.‘s TODAY Show, ABC.’s Good Morning America, ABC.’s The View, CBS.’ The Talk, PBS’ Great Performances (with John Lithgow), amongst others. She currently holds the position of Governor of the LA Chapter of the Recording Academy (GRAMMYS).

Sparks released two previous albums in 2020. “Sounds Like Me,” and her first-ever Christmas album, “Cider & Hennessy.” She received a Dove, Billboard, and Grammy nomination in 2023 for her #1 single with For King & Country, “Love Me Like I Am”, and released the single, “Call My Name” along with her latest single, “Candy Cane Lane”.

Cécile McLorin Salvant

Cécile McLorin Salvant is a composer, singer, and visual artist. The late Jessye Norman described Salvant as “a unique voice supported by an intelligence and full-fledged musicality, which light up every note she sings.” Salvant has developed a passion for storytelling and finding the connections between vaudeville, blues, folk traditions from around the world, theater, jazz, and baroque music. Salvant is an eclectic curator, unearthing rarely recorded, forgotten songs with strong narratives, interesting power dynamics, unexpected twists, and humor. Salvant won the Thelonious Monk competition in 2010. She has received Grammy Awards® for Best Jazz Vocal Album for three consecutive albums, “The Window”, “Dreams and Daggers”, and “For One To Love”. In 2020, Salvant received the MacArthur Fellowship and the Doris Duke Artist Award. Salvant released her debut Nonesuch Records release “Ghost Song” in 2022; the album went on to receive two Grammy® nominations. Mélusine, an album mostly sung in French, along with Occitan, English, and Haitian Kreyòl, was released on March 24, 2023, and has now been nominated for two Grammy® Awards.

Anna Deavere Smith

The program will feature musical performances by Jordin Sparks, music producer and commissioned composer Nolan Williams, Jr., Cécile McLorin Salvant, pianist Sullivan Joseph Fortner, Jr.Anna Deavere Smith, Rodrick Dixon, Rayshun LaMarr, Benjamin H. Moore, and John Riddle.

In addition, Georgetown University will present the annual John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award to Reginald L. Douglas, Artistic Director of Mosaic Theater Company of DC. The aim of Reginald L. Douglas and Mosaic Theater is to use theater to build community and foster change. The award is given by Georgetown University to a local individual who exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mosaic Theater Company produces bold, culturally diverse theater that illuminates critical issues, elevates fresh voices, and sparks connections among communities throughout the D.C. region and beyond.

Mosaic’s innovative education and engagement programming provides opportunities for community members of all ages and backgrounds to engage more deeply with the themes of Mosaic’s plays. As a national leader in new play development work, Mosaic serves as an incubator for stories often untold on U.S. stages. Mosaic is committed to investing in artists and advancing equity practices, which has garnered national attention and served as a model for other theaters.

In its first eight seasons, Mosaic has produced over 10 world premiere plays (with more underway), engaged nearly 4,500 students across all eight wards of D.C. through educational initiatives, programmed over 700 panel discussions and conversations, and commissioned or developed over 30 plays and musicals.

Mosaic has received the John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company, and in 2022, Mosaic received 11 Helen Hayes nominations, including three for “Outstanding New Play”.

As part of Georgetown University’s MLK Initiative: Let Freedom Ring! the event builds on the success of the first joint program in January 2003, which featured the legendary Roberta Flack and attracted more than 5,000 patrons. The second, held in August of 2003, commemorated the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and featured actor and civil rights leader, Ossie Davis. Past concerts have featured Jessye Norman in 2004; Aaron Neville in 2005; Yolanda Adams in 2006 and 2016; Brian McKnight in 2007; Denyce Graves in 2008; Aretha Franklin in 2009; India. Arie in 2010; Patti LaBelle in 2011; Bobby McFerrin in 2012; Smokey Robinson in 2013; Dionne Warwick in 2014; Natalie Cole in 2015; Gladys Knight in 2017; Vanessa Williams in 2018; and Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell in 2019, Chaka Khan in 2020 and Leslie Odom Jr. in 2023.

The event will occur on Monday, January 15, 2024, at 6:00 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20566.

The ticket giveaway begins January 15 at 4:30 p.m. at the Hall of Nations and will be limited to two tickets per person. This performance will be captioned. If you or a member of your party requires accessible seating or seats in the captioned section, please notify staff when you reach the front of the ticket distribution line. This performance will also be live-streamed on the Kennedy Center’s Facebook and YouTube pages and its website at www.kennedy-center.org

Remote Warfare Clashes with Humanity in Grounded at the Kennedy Center

Remote Warfare Clashes with Humanity in Grounded at the Kennedy Center

Grounded
Washington National Opera
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Jordan Wright
October 31, 2023
Special to The Zebra

Mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo (center) plays Jess (Photo Credit/Scott Suchman)

When a young, female top gun returns to the Air Force after raising a child on her husband’s Wyoming ranch, she finds the war game has changed dramatically since her eight years of flying F-16s. Grounded soon finds Major Jess sitting indoors in an ersatz cockpit making life and death decisions with a joystick. In this setting, remote warfare is conducted by the “chair force” – a couple of young gamers who are better suited to playing video games on the sofa. Although she dearly misses her days of dodging aircraft volleys from 36,000 feet in the sky, her husband, Eric (Joseph Dennis), is thrilled she’ll be at home each night after 12-hour shifts trailing convoys and suspicious vehicles in Iraq from the safety of a Las Vegas military base. Split screens in real time follow and target who the crew call “the guilty”.

Willa Cook (left) plays Sam; tenor Joseph Dennis (right) plays Eric (Photo Credit/Scott Suchman)

This phenomenal opera is like nothing you have ever witnessed. It combines 3-D rock concert-level visual projections with a story about computerized modern warfare. The set is made up entirely of LED panels to emphasize how the world of Grounded is inundated with digital images. The libretto is unique and contemporary – melodic and often atonal in an alluring way. And there is a romantic, and deeply human element in Jess (Emily D’Angelo) and Eric’s love story – a dichotomy against the backdrop of decisions made by proxy.  If you’ve ever seen the brilliant movie Eye in the Sky starring Helen Mirren, you’ll understand how these drones, flying 10,000 feet above enemy planes, have the advantage of superseding all other aircraft. The digital technology of the production equals the story of how this detached type of warfare has replaced all human interconnectivity.

As Jess romanticizes the power her uniform gives her, the chorus, also in flight suits, stands at attention on an angled stage that is spilt horizontally. Her small apartment is revealed beneath where she lives with Eric and child, Sam (Willa Cook). That cozy set switches out to become a local bar where the flyboys carouse. In an ironic twist, where death and destruction reign, Jess finds her inability to leave warfare and its accompanying stress with the “Kill Chain” drone operators, overlapping into her home life.

A scene from Grounded in the Kennedy Center Opera House (Photo Credit/Scott Suchman)

Author of over 30 plays and musicals, George Brant, created this piece as a play before joining forces with two-time Tony Award-winning Composer Jeanine Tesori. Commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, it is a radical departure from classical opera – in a good way. The audience was mostly young with some avid military folks. As I was walking up the aisle to the lobby at intermission, I heard an older gentleman turn to an audience member and say, “I only go to classical opera, but this is fantastic!” That seemed to be the reaction of the entire audience at this extraordinary world premiere.

Joined by the Washington National Opera Orchestra conducted by Daniela Candillari and the Washington National Opera Chorus, this thoroughly mind-and-musical immersive production will rock your world. If opera continues to source from new composers and new playwrights to tell a contemporary story that is both highly visual and deeply moving, I truly believe that opera will extend its reach to a younger audience… and it must do exactly that to survive into the next generation of audiences.

Highly recommended!!! This production is the talk of the town! I am flinging rating stars around like candy on Halloween.

A scene from Grounded in the Kennedy Center Opera House (Photo Credit/Scott Suchman)

Composer Jeanine Tesori; Librettist George Brant; Director Michael Mayer; Choreographer David Neumann; Set Designer Mimi Lien; Costume Designer Tom Broecker; Lighting Designer Kevin Adams; Projection Designers Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason H. Thompson; Sound Designer Palmer Hefferan; and Dramaturg Paul Cremo.

With Morris Robinson as Commander; Frederick Ballentine as Trainer; Kyle Miller as Sensor; Teresa Perrotta as Also Jess; Michael Butler as Kill Chain: Mission Coordinator; Joshua Dennis as Kill Chain: Ground Control; Rob McGinness as Kill Chain: Joint Terminal Attack Controller; Jonathan Patton as Kill Chain: Safety Observer; and Sergio Martínez as Kill Chain: Judge Advocate General.

Through November 13th at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20566. For tickets and information call the box office at 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org

A Farmer’s Wife Finds Passion and Purpose in America’s Heartland in The Bridges of Madison County at Signature Theatre

A Farmer’s Wife Finds Passion and Purpose in America’s Heartland in The Bridges of Madison County at Signature Theatre

The Bridges of Madison County
August 20, 2023
Signature Theatre
Jordan Wright
Special to The Zebra 

Mark Evans (Robert Kincaid) and Erin Davie (Francesca Johnson) (Photo by Daniel Rader)

Readers will remember Robert James Waller’s wildly successful 1992 best-selling novel on which Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman bases this 2013 musical adaptation and followed the eponymous 1995 film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. With music and lyrics by the brilliant composer, Jason Roberts Brown, it garnered two Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Orchestrations in 2014.

Coming off his recent success with Pacific Overtures, Signature Theatre’s recently appointed Associate Artistic Director Ethan Heard directs this sweeping love story focusing on the indelible integrity of the score performed by its two leads, Erin Davie as the beautiful Francesca Johnson and Mark Evans as her lover, Robert Kincaid.

Rayanne Gonzales (Marge) and Christopher Bloch (Charlie)  (Photo by Daniel Rader)

The story is set in America’s heartland where iconic covered bridges can still be found and where Robert’s National Geographic assignment leads him to Winterset, Iowa to find and photograph all six of them. Francesca, a post-war Neapolitan transplant to America is married to “Bud” Johnson (Cullen R. Titmas) and the farming couple have two children, Michael (Nolan Montgomery) and Carolyn (Julia Wheeler Lennon). When Francesca begs off a family trip to Davenport for the Iowa State Fair, she revels in her solitude and friendship with neighbors, Marge (Rayanne Gonzalez) and Charlie (Christopher Bloch) in “You’re Never Alone”. Soon she is very much not alone when hot and hunky Robert turns into her driveway to ask directions to one of the covered bridges. In “What Do You Call a Man Like That?” she reveals stirrings of a fire she had tamped down after 18 years of marriage. Their subsequent 4-day forbidden love affair is a story of intense passion and the sexual reawakening of a woman who sacrificed her emotional needs to devote herself to farm and family.

Marina Pires (State Fair Singer) and the cast of The Bridges of Madison County at Signature Theatre. (Photo by Daniel Rader)

Davie’s and Evans’ perfectly complementing voices prove irresistible in Brown’s lush score. Their duets on “Get Closer/Falling Into You” and “Before and After You/A Million Miles” are magical. And I was pleasantly delighted by Marina Pires who holds multiple roles as Marian, Chiara, State Fair Singer, Ginny and Waitress. Her delivery of “Another Life” is outstanding.

 Between the rapturous love scenes on a quilt-covered brass bed, neighbors Marge and Charlie provide the levity as they examine their own marriage and their indelible connection to each other. Yes, marriage takes a healthy dose of humor!

Backed by Conductor William Yanesh’s 12-piece orchestra, this moving musical will steal your heart.

Music Directed by Laura Berquist; Choreography by Kelly Crandall d’Amboise; Scenic Design by Lee Savage; Costume Design by Kathleen Geldard; Lighting Design by Jesse Belsky; Sound Design by Eric Norris.

Highly recommended.

Mark Evans (Robert Kincaid) and Erin Davie (Francesca Johnson) (Photo by Daniel Rader)

Through September 18th at Signature Theatre in Shirlington Village, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 820-9771 or visit www.SigTheatre.org.

Sweeney Todd – The Demon of Fleet Street Provides Murder, Mayhem and Brit Wit at Signature Theatre

 Sweeney Todd – The Demon of Fleet Street Provides Murder, Mayhem and Brit Wit at Signature Theatre

Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Signature Theatre
Jordan Wright
May 26, 2023
Special to The Zebra

Nathaniel Stampley (Sweeney Todd) and Ian McEuen (Pirelli) in Sweeney Todd at Signature Theatre. (Photo/Margot Schulman)

Set in the darkest environs of London we find Sweeney Todd just released from prison and plunged into a life of murder and mayhem, a topic popular with virtuous Victorians and their high-minded devotion to morality and manners. Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street provides us with a singularly depraved and vengeful killer, a man “who would blink and rats would scuttle” as he “served a dark and vengeful god”, underpinned by the intelligent beauty of Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant score with book by Hugh Wheeler.

Columns of screeching steam announce the opening scene as the characters enter from the aisles. We hear the plaintively beautiful operatic voice of the Beggar Woman (Rayanne Gonzalez) as she portends the evils that await and we meet handsome, young Anthony Hope (note the surname) (Paul Scanlan), a sailor who saved Sweeney’s life in a shipwreck and who arrives in London to find Todd and ask for a favor in return.

Katie Mariko Murray (Johanna) and Paul Scanlan (Anthony Hope) in Sweeney Todd at Signature Theatre. (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

Mrs. Lovett (Bryonha Marie), an ambitious and wily widow with a failing meat pie shop and soon to become the lover and murderous accomplice of Sweeney (Nathaniel Stampley), appears in her establishment bemoaning the high price of meat while noting how all the neighbor’s cats have disappeared. They soon strike up an unusual and diabolical alliance and, in a stroke of business genius, Mrs. Lovett (note the surname) provides Todd with a tonsorial parlor above her shop where they gleefully combine the two disparate businesses. “Think of it as thrift,” she chirps ominously.

The musical is a tale of love, loss and revenge merrily served up in all its carnivorous glory with a spot of tea and a stiff upper lip. A grisly horror story dripping with blood and British humor and some of the most notably creative of Sondheim’s music and lyrics. And, not to worry, my pet, it’s also gifts us with an acerbic side-eye and biting gallows humor.

Bryonha Marie (Mrs. Lovett) and Nathaniel Stampley (Sweeney Todd) in Sweeney Todd at Signature Theatre. (Photo/Christopher Mueller)

As for our leads, Marie and Stampley, there could not be a more perfect casting of these two actors who both support and contrast each other. Stampley, portrays a gloomy figure of a man who stalks and broods in tenor splendor and who conveys all the evil in the wider world. He is matched only by the broad expressiveness, charm, and magical vocals of Bryonha Marie. They are superb together.

Scenic Designer Mikiko Suzuki Macadams reflects London’s gritty underbelly with the dark and dirty greys of its 19th century warehouse district complementing Costume Designer Robert Perdziola’s vision of ladies in muted grey dresses – save for our heroine Johanna who is a vision in white linen. Director Sarna Lapine creates a scene of constantly swirling dramatic intrigue and a clever concept to mimic the appearance of blood (of which there is much) using thin, red streamers to palatably capture the mendacity afoot.

Of particular note are performances by Katie Mariko Murray who plays sweet, innocent Johanna, Todd’s long-lost daughter; Harrison Smith as Tobias Ragg, the couple’s wide-eyed hapless assistant; John Leslie Wolfe as the libidinous Judge Turpin who keeps Joanna in an actual birdcage; Christopher Michael Richardson as The Beadle; and Ian McEuen as Pirelli, Todd’s Italian challenger to the title of best barber.

Choreographed by Alison Solomon and conducted by Jon Kabfleisch commanding a 15-piece orchestra for the full-on experience.

Highly recommended.

With an ensemble to include Benjamin Lurye, Jimmy Mavrikes, Bob McDonald, Adelina Mitchell (doubling as Dance Captain), Crystal Mosser, Lawrence Redmond (doubling as Fight Captain), Katherine Riddle, Sarah Anne Sillers and Chani Wereley.

Through July 9th at Signature Theatre in Shirlington Village, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets and information visit www.SigTheatre.org or call the box office at 703 820-9771.

Jagged Little Pill Explodes with Alanis Morissette’s Pop Musical at National Theatre

Jagged Little Pill Explodes with Alanis Morissette’s Pop Musical at National Theatre

Jagged Little Pill
Broadway at The National
Jordan Wright
March 15, 2023
Special To The Zebra

(L to R) Heidi Blickenstaff, Allison Sheppard and Jena VanElslander (Photo/Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade, 2022)

 Inspired by the seminal rock album of the same name by seven-time Grammy Award winner Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill, the Tony and Grammy Award-winning bio-musical, opened in DC at the National Theatre this week. It stars one of my favorite Broadway actresses, Heidi Blickenstaff (as Mary Jane Healey) who played the lead when it reopened on Broadway last fall. You may remember her in the role of Katherine in Disney’s Freaky Friday when it debuted at Signature Theatre before moving on to Broadway.

Broadway legend Chris Hoch plays the dad, Steve Healy. But even without such heavy hitters, this company is on fire. For these power singers (thirteen are in the chorus!) and gifted dancers, it’s the perfect showcase for these young and talented unknowns. Twenty-three iconic numbers give the cast a chance to shine. And, shine, they do! The show is packed with high energy, romance, and real-life drama, addressing issues of drug addiction and teen angst in a relatable way.

Jena VanElslander and Company of JAGGED LITTLE PILL (Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade, 2022)

Mary Jane lives in the shadow of her two kids, Nick and Frankie, hiding her addiction to opioids from everyone. A pill-popping, hot yoga and spin-cycle-loving suburban mom, her gal pals think she’s the perfect mother (“Smiling” by Mary Jane and Company) when underneath the smooth veneer she’s scoring pills in a dark alley. Adopted daughter Frankie (Lauren Chanel) is Black, thinks she’s gay and doesn’t know where she fits in. To help her cope (“Ironic” sung by Frankie and Jo) girlfriend, Jo (Jade McLeod) tells her, “Your mom is one salad away from a psychotic break.”

When Nick (Dillon Lena) gets into Harvard, praise from friends and family rains down on the prodigal son until he experiences a wild night at a friend’s party and he is called upon to be a witness to date rape. Will he say he didn’t see anything, or will he step up despite his mom’s begging him to stay silent? There are powerful life lessons drawn from the differing perspectives of both parents and teens.

Dillon Klena and company (Photo/Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade, 2022)

Watch for McLeod’s huge number in Act II “You Oughta Know” that brought the house down, Chanel’s big number in “Unprodigal Daughter”, the slo-mo dance in “Uninvited” when Mary Jane reflects on her younger self and Allison Sheppard as Bella singing “Predator”, reminiscent of a particular Senate confirmation hearing.

A terrific score by Morissette and Glen Ballard showcases some fantastic new and veteran voices with exciting choreography by Movement Director Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to send this musical into orbit.

Highly recommended for teens and adults.

Heidi Blickenstaff and the company of JAGGED LITTLE PILL (Photo/Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade, 2022)

With Jason Goldston as Andrew; Rishi Golani as Phoenix; Jordan Leigh McCaskill as Pharmacist/Therapist; Camella Taitt as Barista; Bligh Voth as Jill/Teacher; Delaney Brown as Denise; Jena VanElslander as Courtney; Daniel Thimm as Drug Dealer; and Lee H. Alexander as Doctor. Cydney Kutcipal, Lee H. Alexander, Justin Scott Brown and Kei Tsuruharatani fill out a thirteen-person chorus.

Director Diane Paulus; Book by Diablo Cody; additional music by Michael Farrell & Guy Sigsworth; Scenic Design by Riccardo Hernández; Costume Design by Emily Rebholz; Lighting design by Justin Townsend; Sound Design by Jonathan Deans.

Through March 26th at the National Theatre 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20004. For tickets and information visit www.BroadwayAtTheNational.com or in person at the box office.