Chris Hoch was living in Pittsburgh when he first discovered the music of Alanis Morissette.

It was the mid-1990s, and Hoch was a musical theater student at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama. He and his friends loved nerding out over concept albums they thought could be turned into theater pieces. In 1995, Morissette released her third studio album, “Jagged Little Pill,” which quickly caught Hoch’s attention.

“I remembered listening to it thinking, ‘This is a show!’” he told the Union Progress, “never thinking that I could be in it.”

Hoch was ahead of his time with both those observations. “Jagged Little Pill” officially arrived on Broadway in 2019 as a jukebox musical that uses Morissette’s songs to tell the story of the ultra-dysfunctional Healy family. It ended up winning two Tony Awards on 15 nominations a few months later, as well as a 2021 Grammy for best musical theater album.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is bringing the North American tour of “Jagged Little Pill” to Downtown’s Benedum Center next week as part of its 2022-23 Broadway series. Tickets for all performances from Jan. 24-29 are available via The Union Progress spoke with Hoch and fellow star Heidi Blickenstaff about what it’s like to step into Morissette’s world.

“‘Jagged’ really has a way of cracking people open,” Blickenstaff said. “And it’s set to this album. You’re vacillating between crying and rocking. It’s this really liberating thing.”

Chris Hoch, left, and Heidi Blickenstaff in the North American touring production of “Jagged Little Pill.” (Pittsburgh Cultural Trust)

Blickenstaff has been a Morissette fan since she was in her early 20s. She always gravitated toward “women who rock hard,” but she particularly identified with the subject matter in Morissette’s songs.

“I had never really heard anyone like her who was my age who was not only obviously in touch with her rage but was so deeply feeling and thoughtful and poetic,” Blickenstaff said. “In a lot of ways, ‘Jagged’ felt like my own experience. It felt personal to me.”

She plays Mary Jane “M.J.” Healy, the family’s painkiller-popping matriarch. The role was originated by Elizabeth Stanley, who was pregnant when “Jagged Little Pill” reopened on Broadway in 2021. Blickenstaff took over and was perfectly fine splitting Mary Jane duties with Stanley once she returned from maternity leave. She’s proud to have helped pioneer what will hopefully “become a model now for new mothers on Broadway.”

Both she and Hoch, who plays M.J.’s porn-addicted husband, Steve, got to meet Morissette before going on tour with “Jagged Little Pill.” Blickenstaff said that Morissette seemed “very reverent to what we do” as musical theater performers and supportive of how they were interpreting her work. It helped Blickenstaff get comfortable belting Morissette’s music “with utter abandon” on stage like she did in her car when she was 21.

“It was Alanis herself who really gave me permission to filter her songs through my facility,” Blickenstaff said. “She was so generous and encouraging. She really gave all of us such permission and grace to make it our own.”

Morissette was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, and Hoch recalled mildly embarrassing himself by letting her know how, as a kid, he used to watch her on Nickelodeon during her time as a cast member on the Canadian sketch comedy import “You Can’t Do That on Television.” He said that Morissette offered some “really excellent acting notes” to the cast of “Jagged Little Pill.”

“She’s very smart about the acting process,” he said. “Part of me kind of wishes she would throw her hat back in that ring more often.”

Jena VanElslander and the company of the North American touring production of “Jagged Little Pill.” (Pittsburgh Cultural Trust)

For Blickenstaff, it feels like the songs in “Jagged Little Pill” “were written for this story,” as opposed to originating in an entirely different format. The musical mostly sticks to “Jagged Little Pill” while also utilizing other elements of Morissette’s discography such as the 1998 song “Uninvited,” which Mary Jane sings in the second act. Morissette also wrote two original songs, “Smiling” and “Predator,” specifically for this version of “Jagged Little Pill.”

The song “Mary Jane” is actually sung by Hoch’s Steve to Blickenstaff’s M.J. Pittsburghers may have caught Hoch last summer as Aldolpho in the Pittsburgh CLO production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Unlike that extremely showy performance, Steve is a relatively muted character whom Hoch described as “the connective tissue” between the big set pieces involving beloved songs like “Ironic” and “You Oughta Know.”

After spending more than five months on tour with “Jagged Little Pill,” Hoch has come to realize “how kind of universal” Morissette’s oeuvre is and has always been. He wouldn’t necessarily have expected that to be the case as a CMU student almost three decades ago.

“At the time, we saw ‘Jagged Little Pill’ as the character of Alanis Morissette doing those songs,” he said. “I’m pleasantly surprised that those songs can work on different genders, ages and bodies.”

Likewise, Blickenstaff views “Jagged Little Pill” as a “show that everyone can see themselves in” thanks to the sheer amount of topics and emotions it tries to explore on a nightly basis. She advised Pittsburgh audiences that they may experience some unexpected feels as they rock out to their favorite Alanis Morissette tunes.

“If people are open to taking the ride,” she said, “we’re going to take you to a whole new place.”

Joshua covers pop culture, media and more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Contact him at

Joshua Axelrod

Joshua covers pop culture, media and more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Contact him at