To say the song “You Oughta Know” makes an impact is an understatement. The seminal rage anthem was first written and performed by Alanis Morissette, and that song propelled her to international fame. The song was performed again on Broadway by Lauren Patten, for the musical Jagged Little Pill on Broadway, where it inspired mid-show standing ovations and earned Patten a Tony Award. For Jade McLeod, who is currently singing the song in the U.S. national tour of Jagged Little Pill, while the mid-show standing ovations they've been receiving have been “really cool,” they tell Playbill, the best reactions to them have been quieter.
“There was someone who told me that after ‘You Oughta Know’ finished, they turned to their sister who was next to them and said, ‘I'm non-binary,’” recalls McLeod, eyes wide with amazement. “Wow! And they DM-ed me, and I was like, ‘OK, we're doing something.’” McLeod is non-binary and so is the character they’re playing in Jagged Little Pill. They’re performing in states that are currently openly hostile to LGBTQ+ individuals. And they’re inspiring non-binary audience members to live authentically—that’s more than just “something,” though McLeod is humble when speaking about it.
"The pressure is scary. I'm like, I'm just a person, I swear," they say.
Jagged Little Pill features a book by Diablo Cody and music by Morissette, taken from her hit album of the same name. It is about a small town where underneath its idyllic veneer, its citizens are struggling with opioid addiction, homophobia, and sexual assault. Morissette is something of a personal hero for McLeod, who is from Toronto (Morissette is from Ottawa). "Literally, I'm like, my home girl," enthuses McLeod. So you can say it’s fitting that McLeod’s first Broadway tour is on the Jagged Little Pill tour. And they’ve been able to put their own stamp on it, not just through their own rendition of Morissette’s songs.
In 2021, Jagged Little Pill came under some heat for the character of Jo, who was non-binary in the version of the show that premiered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When the show came to Broadway, Jo was written as a cis woman who was struggling with a homophobic, Bible-thumping mother. That change was noticed by members of the trans and non-binary community and the show faced heavy criticisms—writer Christian Lewis calling Jagged Little Pill “an emblem of nonbinary erasure.” For the touring version, the show’s book writer Diablo Cody has changed Jo’s journey from struggling to come out as a lesbian to struggling to come out as non-binary. McLeod, who is also non-binary, was cast as Jo and helped articulate Jo’s journey in the musical—where them being comfortable with not being defined isn't a struggle, it's the whole point.
“The journey is the destination,” explains McLeod. “We're not leaving this where Jo has come out as a trans man at the end of the show. Because that's just not necessarily the path. It's not my path, where I'm at. It is this figuring out place, and maybe it's a figuring out place for their entire life. And maybe it's not. And there's something beautiful and excellent about that.” McLeod even helped the wardrobe team on the show tell Jo’s character arc through their costuming. They start out in ill-fitting baggy clothes and by the end, they’ve developed their own sense of style: a button-down, their tattoos displayed proudly, an undercut.
“It's not so cut and dry as, like, now Jo uses he/him pronoun. It's just a reclamation of body and confidence. And that, to me, is the most important thing,” they say, before adding with a laugh, their legs elevated from their chair in glee, “My friends came to the show and they said that, when I came out at the end, I had a lot of 'big dick energy.'”
There’s a line at the end of the show where a character asks Jo how they’re doing and their answer, simply, but powerfully is: “I’m figuring it out.” And that sentiment has resonated with audiences around the country. “I have people reaching out on Instagram, reaching out at the stage door, that are trans, that are non-binary, that are figuring it out,” says McLeod. “And just to see somebody like them, who’s unafraid of embracing who they are, means the world to people. It meant the world to me to see queer representation. Now to be on the flip side of that, it's really really special.”
And considering that they’re on tour, it also means they’re performing in states that have passed anti-trans and anti-gay bills, such as Florida or South Carolina. When speaking on that topic, McLeod is not fearful. In fact, it’s made them more committed to playing the character of Jo to the best of their abilities, and taking care of themselves in-between shows so they can do it again the next evening.
“Queer joy is an act of rebellion,” says McLeod, with conviction. “It is high pressure to know that for some of these places…I might be the first non-binary person that they've knowingly shared a room with. But if I have done my job correctly, throughout the course of the night, they will have laughed with me, cried with me, and hopefully rooted for me. And that's the only thing I can do. I can just do my job.”
McLeod made a pit stop briefly in New York City in between tour stops; the next day they were traveling to Detroit. But they were generous enough to spend some time in the Playbill office to perform “You Oughta Know” in our studio.
Watch their impactful performance above and catch Jagged Little Pill when the show comes to your city. The video also features a backing track with synth by Matt Doebler, drums by Lucy Ritter, bass by Jennifer Giammanco, guitar 1 by Claudio Raino, and Guitar 2 by David Manning.