In the case of Alanis Morisette's 1995 album "Jagged Little Pill," the answer is that you throw everything into the story. This play includes subplots about bisexuality, interracial adoption, obsessive parenting, opioid addiction, and rape.
The production at Chicago's Nederlander Theater was an excellent interpretation of Morisette's music, tying it with a story interweaving a family's turmoil during a stressful period.
Most of the music came from Morisette's 1996 album "Jagged Little Pill," with a few songs from other albums and two new songs written for the show. Ms. Morisette's music tends to be heavy and angry, which suits this show's dark themes. Yet, the arrangers chose to lighten the original music, softening the arrangements with strings and sometimes slowing it down, reducing the original's ire.
Heidi Blickenstaff stole the show as MJ Healy, an opioid-addicted mother proud of her Harvard-bound son Nick, frustrated by her radical lesbian adopted daughter Frankie, and disconnected from her workaholic husband Steve.
Writer Diablo Cody interjected plenty of humor into the work. One of my favorite parts happened when Frankie read/sang her poem "Ironic" to the class, and one of her classmates provided the feedback: "None of those things are ironic." This line drew one of the biggest laughs from the audience.
The story comes to a head at a high school party when Steve witnesses one of his friends sexually assault another friend while she is passed out drunk.
The music connects the scenes and often emphasizes a mood rather than moving the story forward. The same could be said for the numerous dancers who fill the stage to entertain rather than to add to the story.
"Jagged Little Pill" is a thoughtful story filled with emotion and good music. And it was damn entertaining!