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Jagged Little Pill, the 15-time Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical, inspired by the seminal rock album of the same name by Grammy Award winner Alanis Morissette, premiered at the newly refurbished Theatre Royal Sydney in December.

Jagged Little Pill is an emphatic musical with a story that takes a fearless look at what it means to be alive in 21st century America ignited by Morissette’s beloved hits such as You Oughta Know, Head Over Feet, Hand In My Pocket and Ironic, as well as two brand new songs written just for the show.

Justin Townsend’s lighting design was nominated for a 2020 Tony Award, the same year he was also nominated, and won, for Moulin Rouge.

Unfortunately, with all the Covid shenanigans around the world, Justin never made it to the Australian rehearsals or opening night, relying on the wonders of the internet to participate in the evolution of this design.

“It was a completely new way of working for me and also my Australian Associate Designer Hugh Hamilton,” admitted Justin. “The plan is for the Australian show design to be replicated for a touring version of the US later this year. This production of Jagged Little Pill has a beautiful new scenic design by Riccardo Hernández which is the same - but different!”

The main scenic change is that the roving panels that were used as a projection surface are now sliding LED screens.

“Some of the tricks we used with the panels on Broadway such as uplighting a panel to provide a 3-dimensional depth to a projection had to change,” said Justin.

Justin is known for using colour to shape and identify the world around the characters so it was essential to ensure the hues remained constant.

“However, it’s not a case of simply handing my associate a disk and away he goes,” he added. “Before you try to recreate the ‘paint by number’ version you need to understand the spirit of the show. Fortunately, as we’ve used the same equipment, the colour shows up the way it is supposed to.”

“I’ve never had a designer throw so much to me … albeit in a lovely way!” added Hugh. “It was a fun process however, we would have been in a tougher place if we hadn’t kept the same equipment, especially as the only colour reference for the show was from the common equipment. We had different LED tape and a completely different layout of everything but if we hadn’t had the colour palette and cue structure we would have been up against the wall.”

When cueing the light and the movement, it needed to be seamlessly interwoven with the choreography.

The lighting is extensively used to suggest the environment in particular the suburban house much of the show is set in. The iconic shape of a roof of a house became the unifying design idea and two hung trusses full of Martin MAC Quantum wash lights are used to create an overhead structure. Martin RUSH PAR2 are used as truss toners.

This ceiling of light flew in and out during the action, creating compressed spaces as well as completely flying out to the grid, creating a giant black void.

A fourth truss is hung above the band platform. Martin MAC Auras are located beneath this platform with GLP JDC-1s atop of said platform. GLP X4 Bars are also under the band platform as well as on the edge of the platform.

“The X4Bars and JDC-1s do the eye-candy, flashy, flashy stuff,” said Hugh succinctly.

The front and sidelight are delivered by Martin MAC Encores with four Robe BMFL Followspot Long Throw also out front and Justin is thrilled that they enable him to tune the colours to a racially diverse cast.

“Now we can say what do we need for each person’s skin colour to make them look spectacular in a particular cue,” said Justin. “Because it was such a long throw and I needed headshots that lit only the head, Robe made a huge effort, working throughout the Broadway technical rehearsals and into the night, to reduce the iris size and get tighter shots from the followspots.”

Chroma-Q ColorForce 72 sit in troughs in the deck and were originally added to uplight the sliding panels.

“We’ve invested a heavy amount of gear in the deck itself which allows a different angle to simply front and backlight,” explained Hugh. “As there’s this company of actors who are always on stage as a collective, having a low uplight angle was critical.”

An ETC EOS Ti is used for control with a large amount of RGBW Pixel Tape, broken into 100 mm chunks, gobbling up much of the console’s capacity.

The show was programmed on Broadway by Brad Gray and Robert Cuddon programmed this version.

“Chameleon has been great,” concluded Hugh. “Tony Davies and Luke Cuthbertson have been fantastically supportive and have bent over backwards to make things happen.

“I would also like to say it is great to have the Theatre Royal back up and running, and busy!”

Jagged Little Pill opens this month at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre before travelling to Perth in May and back to Sydney in July 2022.

Gear List

54 x Martin MAC Encore Performance Cold W/ Cti Tophats
58 x Martin MAC Quantum Wash W/ Cti Concentric Ring Tophats
14 x Martin MAC Aura XB
24 x GLP Impression X4 Bar
20 x GLP Impression X4 Bar 10
18 x GLP JDC-1 Strobe

37 x Chroma Q Colorforce 72 (First Generation)
5 x Chroma Q Colorforce 12 (First Generation)
32 x Martin RUSH Par 2 Rgbw Zoom

16 x ETC Source 4 Par Wfl Worklight
12 x ETC Source 4 36 Worklight

4 x Robe BMFL Followspot "Long Throw" With Side Operation Controls

2 x MDG ATMe Haze Atmostphere Haze Machines (new style)
3 x MDG ATMe Haze Atmostphere Haze Machines (classic style)
7 x Martin Af1 Fans

1 x ETC EOS Ti 40K Lighting console w/ most current software version
1 x ETC RPU "3" Ti 40K Lighting console w/ most current software version

Jagged Little Pill Australia 2021 - Emily Nkomo and cast 01- Pic credit Daniel Boud.jpg
Jagged Little Pill Australia 2021 - Maggie McKenna and cast - Pic credit Daniel Boud.jpg
Jagged Little Pill Australia 2021 - Maggie McKenna, Emily Nkomo, AYDAN - Pic credit Daniel
Jagged Little Pill Australia 2021 - Full cast - Pic credit Daniel Boud.jpg
Jagged Little Pill Australia 2021 - Emily Nkomo, Maggie McKenna- Pic credit Daniel
Jagged Little Pill Australia 2021 - AYDAN, Emily Nkomo - Pic credit Daniel Boud.jpg
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