A chat with JAGGED LITTLE PILL’s Liam Head

Jagged Little Pill is opening in Australia!

A musical comprised of the music of Alanis Morissette, the Sydney premiere of Jagged Little Pill marks the first international production of the show outside of Broadway.

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.

Liam Head | Photo by Stuart Miller

Liam Head is playing the role of Nick Healy, the older child of MJ (Natalie Bassingthwaighte) and Steve (Tim Draxl), and sibling to Frankie (Emily Nkomo). Just 19 years old, Jagged Little Pill marks Nick’s professional music theatre debut. While studying at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, Liam performed. During his studies, Liam was privileged to perform many roles, most memorably Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde the Musical, Army Officer in Les Misérables and Kenickie in Grease. Liam has his own production company, The Head Bros, for which he writes, directs, and produces shows. So far, The Head Bros have launched productions of 10 Act Cabaret and Hallmarked!, with more works in development. In late 2020, Liam was honoured to dance under Kate Wormald and Polly Bennett in the Warner Bros new film, ELVIS, directed by Baz Luhrmann.

How has it been actually getting into a rehearsal room?

Liam: Exciting. The key word being thrown around is turbulent. Yeah, it’s been a turbulent time with COVID and stuff, the first two weeks [of rehearsals] had some people over Zoom. So now in the room, it’s very exciting. We’re all together. It’s such a beautiful cast.

Jagged Little Pill marks your professional music theatre debut! What was the audition like?

Liam: It was really fun. I mean, I had my first professional audition this year, and that was for Phantom. And so I travelled through every audition, and then I came to Jagged, and I was able to literally go and just have fun, create and work off the team. It was really fun working with these creatives, they made it such an enjoyable and friendly environment. It was really lovely doing all that. I was still at uni this year, but then I got the call up and ran down here to start on this one. I remember getting a phone call from my agent at the time, and she said they want you to play Nick Healy and I was completely taken aback. I expected to get in the show, obviously I was very hopeful. But when she said Nick Healy I was like, “so not the cover, not ensemble?” and they’re like, “no, the the whole hog, Nick Healy.” It was just crazy because I was certainly expecting to audition for a few more years. I don’t know what the future’s going to bring, but I’m just enjoying what it has right now – enjoying this contract, the people that I’m meeting, the work that I get to do, and the art that I get to create.

Something I find fascinating is that while Jagged Little Pill is technically a jukebox musical, they didn’t just write a story around the music. So much of the music is integrated into the story, and Alanis even wrote new music specifically for the show.

Liam: I think Alanis and Tom Kitt haven’t been afraid to completely rip apart the original album and then stitch it all back. In many jukebox musicals, you see someone press play, they play the song, and then it finishes and the story moves on. But in the way they have adapted and written this show, there’s none of that. It’s all pulled apart, sliced, and thrown around. The way that songs have been arranged, even transitional music, it’s all taken from Alanis’ riffs. In many ways, people won’t realise just how musically intelligent it is.

Liam Head, Emily Nkomo, Natalie Bassingthwaighte, and Tim Draxl as the Healys | Photo by David Boon

It must be really exciting knowing you’re going to be the second person (after Derek Klena) to ever play Nick Healy!

Liam: I remember being 12 and listening to Dogfight… it’s pretty surreal knowing that your name might be on the Wikipedia page for the second person playing Nick Healy, right? [laughs] Second to Derek as well. I’ve followed his career my entire life, looked up to him and respected him, so it is a huge honour.

Do you see any of yourself in Nick?

Liam: It’s pretty funny how closely I do resonate with Nick. I think many people in this industry will will resonate to a character like Nick with the pressures of, you know, Don’s dance every night doing damage to the side as well and getting straight A’s as very type a very driven. I only went to two parties in high school, and when I did go, I wasn’t drinking. So it’s funny, and really cool to see how much even I’ve grown as let’s look a younger self. And I mean, I’m very excited to give a very authentic portrayal of Nick.

Jagged Little Pill deals with a large array of serious themes. Why do you think it’s important to explore these on stage?

Liam: The work that we do shouldn’t necessarily make us comfortable. I think this is the best part about the show is it’s provocative and it’s thought provoking. It’s going to make people talk. It’s going to make people think. And I feel really, really privileged and proud of this show, how it’s been developed and written to create the space for us to talk. I think the best approach that I’ve taken so far is not being afraid of the scary content and really not skirting around it either, but truly listening and talking to people and and uncovering what these topics actually mean, and yet not being afraid of and facing it head on. Every few years you get a musical that defines a generation. This next generation is new, it’s exciting, it’s current. It’s tackling themes head on in a way that I don’t think has happened before. Alanis and Diablo and all the creators have really gone out on a limb here.

Jagged Little Pill opens at Sydney’s Theatre Royal on December 2nd, and moves to Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre from January 2nd, 2022. 

For tickets and more information, visit the Jagged Little Pill website.

Header image: Stuart Miller

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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