Antonio Cipriano admits he had no idea who Alanis Morissette was when he received a Facebook message from casting director Stephen Kopel asking the 19-year-old performer to audition for the role of Phoenix in the Jagged Little Pill Broadway musical.
"I was like, who the hell is this Alanis Morissette person?" Cipriano says. "My mom overheard me saying that and she was like, 'Are you kidding me?'"
It wasn't until his mother played Morissette's seminal 1995 record that Cipriano realized that Jagged Little Pill was the soundtrack to his childhood.
"I know almost every single song on this album," he says. "I don't know who Alanis Morissette is, but I know all of this music. I've heard this music growing up my entire life. It's really cool how she had an impact on me before I even knew who she was, and now I'm singing 'Ironic' and 'Head Over Feet' in the show. It's pretty incredible."
Raised in Grosse Pointe, Cipriano had always dreamt of the Broadway stage but never saw it coming into fruition as it did. As a junior at University Liggett High School, Cipriano was selected to represent his school at the annual Sutton Foster Ovation Awards, which honors achievements made by high school drama students throughout Michigan. After winning the award for best actor, he went on to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards — or the Jimmy Awards — where he placed as a finalist. A few months later, Kopel sent the Facebook message that would eventually make Cipriano's dream come true.
"After the Jimmy Awards, it was like, Oh, I can actually achieve this dream," he says. "I can actually do this. Because it was always just like a thought. It was always an idea. But how am I gonna get there? What am I going to do to get there? So when it actually happened, it was unbelievable."
Jagged Little Pill, which was written by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Diablo Cody (Juno) and directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus (Pippin), took nearly seven years to manifest. Morissette told The New York Times in a recent profile that the Broadway show is in no way a jukebox musical — later confirmed by an NYT review of the show, hailing it as a "joyful and redemptive" evolution of the jukebox genre. The story of eight characters and the worlds they inhabit is told through the songs from the record and includes some from Morissette's later work and parallel issues faced by a modern family: addiction, race, rape, and trauma.
"She wrote Jagged Little Pill when she 19," Cipriano says of Morissette. "So when she was my age, she wrote Jagged Little Pill. I cannot imagine myself ever doing that." He adds that the award-winning Canadian songwriter is "the nicest human ever" and one of the most intelligent people he's ever met.
"She's literally like my mom," he says.
Jagged Little Pill the musical will be Cipriano's home through early July, just a few weeks after Morissette embarks on a North American tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of the record. He and his castmates perform eight shows a week, padded with daytime rehearsals. Though he says the transition from Michigan to New York City has been a crazy one, he's working at staying present so he can soak it all in.
"It's crazy all the time, but it's also the best city ever," he says. "I've met so many awesome people. I have so many great friends here. It's a very exhausting process for sure, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's really incredible. I'm very grateful."
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