Jagged Little Pill is open in Melbourne!
A musical comprised of the music of Alanis Morissette, the Australian premiere of Jagged Little Pill marks the first international production of the show outside of Broadway. The show ran a highly successful Sydney season, and has just opened its Melbourne season. It then tours to Perth before coming back to Sydney for a return season.
The show follows the Healy family navigating through the difficulties of life such as battling addiction, grappling with trauma, exploring sexuality, encountering racism, and processing sexual assault. Theatre has long been an agent of change, acting as a platform to reflect real issues back onto its audience – Jagged Little Pill holds that mirror right up, creating a forum for discussion and inviting a societal change. Debuting in their first mainstage role is Grace Miell. Grace plays Bella, a high school student who has to learn to navigate the world as a survivor of sexual assault.
Hailing from Brisbane, Grace began training in performing arts from the early age of 5 at Kidz-n-co Talent Musical Theatre School. When they were 16 years old, they travelled with their Theatre School to dance and sing at Disney World (Orlando USA) and then performed on the cruise ship Enchantment of The Seas throughout the USA. Grace’s stage experience includes The Wild Blue by Anthony Crowley (Federation University) performing for the Starlight Children’s Foundation as a singer soloist. Grace was in the middle of training at Centrestage’s full time Musical Theatre course SHOWFIT when offered the opportunity to audition for Jagged Little Pill. They are now beyond excitement to play the role of Bella in this Australian premiere believing it’s a privilege to work alongside such a diverse cast, whilst shedding light on survivors, their stories and the social responsibilities needed to encourage change.
Can you tell me about the moment you found out you’d gotten the role of Bella?
Grace: Well, I was driving in the car and it just popped up on my emails. I pulled over, read it, and pretty much screamed. I started calling all of my life – mum, dad, siblings, partner,
Jagged Little Pill is your professional debut – has it been exciting working alongside industry professionals?
Grace: Yeah. Well, I mean, I was watching her [Nat Bassingthwaighte] growing up, obviously on all sorts of Australian TV. It was pretty nerve wracking to finally meet her. And she’s the funniest person. So it’s been really nice to feel comfortable around such wealth of knowledge. I think we’re all supporting each other and going through it together. It has been really nice to have other people help navigate how intense it can be at times.
The show deals with a large array of serious themes. How do you as an actor work through the serious content?
Grace: It’s great to just kind of offload, you know, like putting pressure on the other side. You’re not putting pressure on friends or other people in the cast. I like doing things to de-role like getting changed into a fresh set of clothes that feel like me, bringing my favourite perfume, just taking a hot bath and listening to music that I was listening to, but also getting out of that character headspace. I’ve also got like a playlist of all of the music that I would relate to Bella. So that’s kind of how I’m strategising, getting in and out of the role. But it’s a back story that hits close to home, and I think for a lot of people in the cast, it’s the same. When we’re entering the rehearsal space as well we’re just checking in and checking out with all the cast members to make sure that everyone’s okay and feeling comfortable enough to share how they’re feeling. It’s been very supportive, but it’s been tough to tell the story. The show really expresses so many of the emotions that you kind of disregard. I think that’s something I’ve learnt throughout this already is just how people go through different emotions with trauma, when stuff like this has come up for them. It’s understanding that it is okay to have these emotions. And yeah, this is how you can get through it, and have people supporting you in that as well.
And you get to sing a new song written specifically for the show – “Predator”
Grace: I know! I actually didn’t realise that. The lyrics are very impactful. Every time I’d listen to it I was crying.
Do you have another song or scene in the show that you really love?
Grace: Oh, the one between Emily and Aydan, one of the songs between Frankie and Phoenix – “Head Over Feet.” It’s one of my favourite songs on Alanis’ album as well.
Race and gender identity are central themes to the plot of Jagged Little Pill, topics that have been recently discussed in the wider context of the theatre world. How have you found working within an environment where these are embraced inclusively?
Grace: It’s very special. Everybody is here to be seen, you’re free to express yourself, especially in the ensemble. They’re free to express themselves and as dancers, as singers, as artists. There’s so much freedom that has been given to everybody to experiment and really, truly be themselves in the rehearsal room and on stage, which is great. We have people in tears, just so grateful to be accepted in an environment which like can predominantly be led by a very small minority of people, with not a lot of openness. So I hope that there’ll be a lot of young people that do come and see it as well. Everyone’s experiences will be validated and seen and heard.
Jagged Little Pill is currently playing at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre until March.
For tickets and more information, visit the Jagged Little Pill website.
Header image: Stuart Miller