Diana Exclusive Interview with actress Allison Sheppard

February 9, 2023




By: Diana Brang-Scott

JAGGED LITTLE PILL hit the records stores and the air waves in 1995 to worldwide commercial success, topping the charts in 13 countries. That year it was nominated for 9 Grammy Awards and won five including Album of the Year, making the then 21-year-old the youngest artist to win that top honor at the time. I was a senior in high school and every young woman was drawn to Morrissette’s vulnerable, raw, powerful voice and unapologetic lyrics. The album is full of coming-of-age stories that in many ways mirror things that I was feeling then at age of 18. Alanis was just a year or so older than I when she wrote and produced the music that gave a voice to the Gen X generation of women telling us that it was a waste of time trying to calm our angry voice and instead use it to empower us.

JAGGED LITTLE PILL the musical is just as raw and emotional as the album is, but don’t assume this show is about one woman’s relationship angst- it isn’t. Directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus, JAGGED LITTLE PILL is an “electrifying, visceral and stunning” (The Hollywood Reporter) musical with an original story by Tony and Academy Award-winning writer Diablo Cody, about a perfectly imperfect American family that “vaults the audience to its collective feet” (The Guardian). Nominated for a season-record of 15 Tony Awards following its Broadway premiere, The New York Times declared the show “redemptive, rousing and real.”

Ignited by Morissette’s groundbreaking lyrics and music – from beloved hits such as “You Oughta Know,” “Head Over Feet,” “Hand In My Pocket,” and “Ironic”, to brand new songs written for the show – JAGGED LITTLE PILL features explosive choreography by Tony Award nominee and frequent Beyoncé collaborator Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and the raw power of an onstage band.

My husband and I had the pleasure of seeing JAGGED LITTLE PILL in New York on Broadway March 1, 2020 (just before the world shut down) I love the theatre and most of time I am dragging him along, he is a contractor, a football loving, bourbon drinking kind of guy’s guy. Most of the time I must nudge him out of sleep during shows, but not this one. This show is so different, it is heavy. It touches on so many issues: trauma, addiction, sexual assault, it is filled with real life relatable human complexities, and is an emotional punch to the gut set to rock music and it brought him to tears. (Luckily for me, he never reads my articles, so shhh don’t tell him I said that lol)

I caught up with the tour on their break before they headed to Detroit, and I spoke with the lovely Allison Sheppard who plays the character of Bella Fox. Allison is an AMDA graduate and excited to be making her National Tour debut. “I have been performing since I was 6 years old, it’s all I have ever wanted to do, and to be able to perform and share this important story and take the JAGGED LITTLE PILL around the country has been an absolute dream come true. Its surreal!”

In a show with so many complexities, I asked Allison what she thought the message for the audience was? “I think it’s the message of authenticity. There is so much desire in the days of social media to portray a life that is perfect and filtered. People try to hide things that they may think are different or flawed from the world. This show kind of tells you that if you are open with yourself and open to those around you with your struggles or the darkest parts of yourself, that you will find so much more peace, joy and have such stronger relationships with those around you if you are honest and authentic.”

This show is filled with so many great ballsy female rock songs, some you will remember from our angsty younger years and some that are brand new for this musical. I asked Allison if she had a favorite number? She yes said, “Yes, the entire show, they are all my favorite!” She laughed and said, “I really love to be part of “Uninvited” it’s one of my favorite Alanis songs and I think one of the most brilliantly choreographed pieces of theater ever. Heidi Blickenstaff (who reprises her role from the Broadway production as Mary Jane Healy) and Jena VanElslander (ensemble) are two of the most giving and talented performers that I have met in my entire life, and it is just an honor to be part of that number and share the stage with them.” Thinking back to New York, I remember the song “Uninvited” it is a very powerful number in the show. Without giving too much away it focuses on the internal battle with oneself and addiction and you have never seen anything like it!

This show is jam packed with emotions, struggles, joy, and love. I asked Allison what she thought the audience would be talking about on their drive home after seeing it? She said, “They are going to be singing “You Oughta Know,” at the top of their lungs because Jade’s (Jade McLeod plays Jo) performance is absolutely show stopping!” She went to say, “What makes this show cool is that there is a lot of conversation that can come out of it. I don’t know if people will be having the ‘deep talks’ on the drive home, but it opens the doors. The show teaches you to not ignore the hard things, to reach out and talk to someone because doing so can improve your life. So, I think right afterwards they will still be rocking out, and drying their tears but this story of hope, authenticity over anything, love and acceptance will foster communication.”

Thinking back to my teen years, there was something so different about Alanis Morrissette, she wasn’t gimmicky, she wasn’t trying to be sexy, she was just being honest. Life is messy and it doesn’t go down easy, just a JAGGED LITTLE PILL.

Come out and see Allison Sheppard and the entire cast of JAGGED LITTLE PILL showing at the Fisher Theatre February 14-26, 2023 and tickets can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com, by phone at 800-982-2787, and in person at the Fisher Theatre Box Office. For more information, please visit www.broadwayindetroit.com or www.jaggedlittlepill.com

Instagram: @jaggedlittlepill Facebook: @jaggedmusical Twitter: @jaggedmusical

Children under the age of five will not be permitted in the theatre. This production is recommended for aged 14 and up as it contains strong language, adult themes, drug use, and moments of sexual violence that some may find upsetting.

Jagged Little Pills musical photos by: Matthew Murphy