'Jagged Little Pill' to close on Broadway, citing omicron

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'Jagged Little Pill' to close on Broadway, citing omicron
Elizabeth Stanley in “Jagged Little Pill” at the Broadhurst Theater in New York on Nov. 20, 2019. The Alanis Morissette musical becomes the first big show to be felled by the resurgent coronavirus pandemic. Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

by Michael Paulson

NEW YORK, NY.- “Jagged Little Pill,” a rock musical fueled by the songs of Alanis Morissette that wrestles with a variety of contemporary social issues, will close on Broadway, becoming the first big show felled, in part, by the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

The musical stopped performing Saturday, citing “a limited number of positive COVID test results.” And on Monday night, the producers said it would not reopen.

The causes are multiple: The show, which opened in late 2019, was nominated for 15 Tony Awards, and won two, for best book, by Diablo Cody, and best featured actress, Lauren Patten. But it did not win the prize with the most box office value, best musical, and never fully found its footing before shutting down with the rest of the industry because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It restarted in October, but sales were soft through the fall.

And then came omicron, the variant that has driven coronavirus cases back up, and prompted a raft of cancellations of performances on Broadway and beyond.

“The drastic turn of events this week with the rapid spread of the omicron variant has, once again, changed everything,” the producers said in a statement. “We are dismayed by what appears to be another substantial public health crisis, and, due to the detection of multiple positive COVID-19 cases within the company, need to prioritize the health and safety of the cast, crew and entire team working on ‘Jagged Little Pill.’ ”

They added, “In light of the extreme uncertainty ahead of us this winter, and forced to choose between continuing performances and protecting our company, we’ve made the difficult decision to close our doors.”

The show arrived on Broadway with a strong tailwind, given the enormous popularity of the album from which the musical takes its name, and the success of a pre-Broadway production at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. On Broadway, it received some strong reviews, including from The New York Times, in which critic Jesse Green called it “clear in its priorities, rich in character, sincere without syrup, rousing and real.”

The show, with a progressive worldview, shed light on issues including sexual assault, transracial adoption and opioid addiction, and came in for some criticism along the way for what some saw as a shifting depiction of the gender identity of Patten’s character. And then a former cast member accused the show of mishandling medical concerns.

The show also modeled a form of parent-friendly casting that is rare on Broadway: Upon returning from the pandemic, the show agreed to allow its lead actress, Elizabeth Stanley, to share her role with another actress, Heidi Blickenstaff, so that Stanley, who had just given birth to her first child, could work part time.

“Jagged Little Pill” is produced by Vivek J. Tiwary, Arvind Ethan David, and Eva Price. It was capitalized for up to $14 million, and has not yet recouped that investment. The show also received $10 million from the federal government as a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.

The show has a touring production running in Australia, and the producers said they expect to announce plans for other productions as well. The show also has a cast album that won this year’s Grammy Award for best musical theater album, and its story, about a family in suburban Connecticut grappling with a variety of issues, is being adapted into a novel.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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