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Canadian actor overwhelmed by opportunity to work with Alanis


Jade McLeod was initially nervous to collaborate with Alanis Morissette on the musical Jagged Little Pill, which comes to Regina next week.

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Jade McLeod had to swallow hard in preparation for Jagged Little Pill.

If it wasn’t nerve-racking enough to perform music from one of the most successful albums of all time, McLeod did it under the watchful eye of fellow Canadian Alanis Morissette, who made those songs famous almost 30 years ago.

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Morissette is now part of a team that transformed Jagged Little Pill into a Grammy- and Tony-award winning musical that appeared on Broadway before touring across North America. The Canadian leg begins next week in Regina with performances Tuesday and Wednesday at the Conexus Arts Centre.

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“No pressure. No pressure at all,” McLeod said with a laugh before conceding that “the pressure is immense (when performing Morissette’s music). It’s her baby! I’m taking care of her baby so it’s horrifying but it’s also the greatest experience. Nowadays, when I’m faced with something difficult in my life, I literally think to myself, ‘Well, I sang You Oughta Know in front of Alanis Morissette so I think I can do anything.’”

The show features music from Morissette’s breakthrough record and a few more of her hits, plus two new songs that Alanis wrote specifically for the show.

McLeod’s role as the character Jo includes performing “You Oughta Know” and “Hand In My Pocket.” Both were huge singles on the original album, which won countless awards (including five Grammys) and is widely considered one of the most successful records of the 1990s.

No wonder McLeod was feeling the heat.

“How could you not be? She’s a brilliant writer and a brilliant lyricist. That’s kind of undeniable,” McLeod said. “She’s also, in my brief experiences with her, a very lovely, grounded human being and very kind. She’s so generous with us and her time. I’m sure it’s weird to hear a bunch of musical theatre kids sing your music but we try and do it justice …”

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The musical opened on Broadway in 2019 and shut down twice due to the COVID pandemic, ultimately calling it quits in 2021. One year later, a new cast hit the road for a massive tour that’s now headed to Canada.

“I’m the only Canadian in the company right now so being able to bring this home on (Alanis’s) home turf means a lot,” said the Toronto native. “It’s interesting (because) sometimes it’s a little lonely and a little odd to be the only foreigner but … I have a deep sense of pride about it.”

Jade McLeod as Jo and Teralin Jones as Frankie in the North American tour of Jagged Little Pill.
Jade McLeod as Jo (left) and Teralin Jones as Frankie in Jagged Little Pill. Photo by Evan Zimmerman

In the show, McLeod interacts with an American family that “seems perfect on the outside but on the inside they’re crumbling and chasing their own individual breaking points. Over the course of our show and through (Alanis’s) music, we get to watch these characters fall apart and also really come face to face with themselves and some really hard truths. Without spoiling too much, we do get to see them come out the other side of that.”

McLeod feels “really lucky” to play Jo, describing the character as “weird and different and an old soul.” Jo is relatable but complicated, presenting queer themes that may be uncomfortable for some.

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McLeod hopes to win them over.

“My job is to make them fall in love with me and root for me and laugh with me and cry with me (regardless of sexuality); that is a very powerful thing,” McLeod added. “(The show) was developed in such a way that Jo is impossible not to fall in love with as a human being and to relate to. I wish I was more like Jo in high school. Life would have been a little easier if I was willing to march to my own drum the way they do.”

McLeod identifies as queer and plays a non-binary character who’s involved in a storyline with Frankie — “best friends with benefits.” Frankie’s situation is further complicated by an adopted mother who doesn’t approve of the relationship.

“It’s this very pure young love that gets explored and all of the complications that are surrounded by that,” said McLeod, who embraced the challenge as an actor. “In the past I played very feminine, stereotypically female roles. To step into a character that is very masculine in a lot of ways and a lot closer to how I walk the world in my day-to-day life, it’s really special. I get to express myself fully and I also get to be some representation for other people who are like me, which is a privilege beyond words.”

gharder@postmedia.com

ALANIS MORISSETTE’S

JAGGED LITTLE PILL

THE MUSICAL

Oct. 10-11, Conexus Arts Centre

Tickets: conexusartscentre.ca

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