There’s landing a big role on your first Broadway tour — and then there’s landing a big role in the Alanis Morissette–inspired musical, where you’ll be singing “You Oughta Know’ every night onstage and sometimes in front of Morissette herself.
That was Jade McLeod’s experience when they landed the role of Jo in Jagged Little Pill — the jukebox musical inspired by Morissette’s album of the same name — which arrived in Toronto on Oct. 24 and runs until Nov. 26.
“Singing in front of her for the first time was wild,” McLeod says. “Now, when I’m faced with a hard thing, I say, ‘You sang “You Oughta Know” in front of Alanis herself. You can do anything.’”
But McLeod says Morissette was always supportive. “She is the most lovely, grounded human being. She sat us all down to have a conversation as a company, and she told me, ‘The audience is in the palm of your hand,’” they recall. “That completely changed how I did everything and put me so much more at ease!”
Perhaps Morissette felt a certain kinship with McLeod — seeing as they are currently the only Canadian in the company. “I was overwhelmed at first moving to a new country,” they say. “But now we’re doing the Canadian leg of the tour and suddenly it’s the Americans who don’t know how to pay for things!”
Growing up surrounded by family members who worked in science and medicine, McLeod says they were always the “odd duck.” Pursuing the arts was something that they say was more about finding a place where they belonged than falling in love with the art itself.
And McLeod wasn’t sure they would pursue a career in musical theatre at first — “Everyone said you’d never make any money!” — until they got bitten by the Broadway theatre dream bug.
“I worked in Canada, and I was getting hired, but never for leading roles, and I started giving up on the idea of making an actual career out of this,” they say. “And then Jagged happened.”
In this version of Jagged Little Pill, McLeod’s character is non-binary, and getting to bring their own life experience to the character as a non-binary actor has “meant everything” to McLeod. “Getting to take this show across North America and interact with queer kids in the audience who have never seen themselves onstage before is just incredible,” they say.
McLeod says audience members constantly reach out to share what it meant to them to see Jo onstage. “I don’t take it lightly, and that’s the nature of this show in general,” they say. “It’s a very cathartic piece of art.”
McLeod also has brought this character to audience members who have never met a non-binary person before. “If I’ve done my job, they’ll have laughed with me, cried with me and fallen in love with me as a human being. That’s the important part — I’m just existing. I’m not advocating. I’m just being me.”