NORTHBROOK, IL — Chris Hoch first heard Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” album when he was in college and remembers thinking at the time that the Canadian rocker had really conjured up a collection of songs that had plenty of storytelling potential.
Hoch, who had come into his own as a performer on the Glenbrook North theater stage, certainly wasn’t wrong. But it wasn’t long before his friends at Carnegie Mellon University’s Drama Conservatory reminded the aspiring actor that they had all reached the same conclusion two years earlier, making Hoch think that he had somehow missed the boat.
Years later, however, Hoch’s experience with the album has managed to come full circle in ways he perhaps never expected. Hoch portrays Steve Healy in the Tony Award-winning Broadway show with the same title that makes its way to Chicago for a two-week run at the James Nederlander Theater beginning on April 11.
Like was the case with Morissette’s music, Hoch was moved the first time that he read the script for a show he felt like he had no business auditioning for in the first place, but over time, he has found an unexpected home.
“Jagged Little Pill” tells the story of a family that finds itself dealing with an ever-changing world and trying to find its way within that landscape. While Steve Healy takes on more of a supporting role in the storyline, the challenges of the family provide a visceral and challenging storyline that Hoch says audiences can’t help to latch onto.
The production intertwines Morissette’s music with a storytelling magic that Hoch says takes theatergoers on a roller-coaster experience they won’t soon forget.
“It’s really a trip,” Hoch told Patch on Thursday. “It’s something you definitely need to buckle yourself in for.”
He added: “You could just tell (by reading the script) that you were in for what was going to be an evening that was going to hit you like a 2 x 4.”
Hoch, who grew up under the tutelage of Glenbrook North theater teacher Pat Murphy and choir director Judy Moe, auditioned for the show twice. At first, he admits that he didn’t initially feel like his personality was the right fit for the role but soon found himself embracing the opportunity to take himself out of his comfort zone as an actor.
Hoch, whose other Broadway credits include “A Christmas Carol”, “War Paint”, “Amazing Grace” and other shows, had always done more period pieces, which made “Jagged Little Pill” a role that he found himself opening himself up to along with the rest of the cast and allow the role of Steve Healy and the rest of the show carry him along.
The role of Steve Healy, Hoch said, connects more with audience members who are new to the idea of cultural shifts, which allows them to see the process of change through Healy’s eyes. His positioning in the show, while not a starring role, plays a key role in setting the story up for his fellow actors, which allows Hoch to fall back on a practice he first learned at Glenbrook North. While “Jagged Little Pill” is his first rock show, Hoch — who first fell in love with Morissette for her role in the Nickelodeon show “You Can’t Do That On Television” as a younger — has allowed himself to grow as an actor after initially thinking the closest he would ever come to the production would be as a spectator.
“It’s still kind of strange that I’m in it,” Hoch says.
The role has allowed Hoch to embrace the importance of allowing his place in the production to strengthen the overall show. While he has been cast as a main character several times in his career, latching onto a role like Steve Healy, he said, has taken him back to his time working with Murphy, who always preached the sum of the parts over the individual roles.
While many might consider the first stages of learning theater a minor step in what has become a career on Broadway, Hoch takes the opposite approach. The fact that he learned such an important lesson so early on has only made his journey as an actor even more rewarding. That makes bringing the show back to the theater scene where he first fell in love with the stage even more meaningful for Hoch.
“That was the greatest gift I got was to be in the Glenbrook North theater program,” Hoch told Patch on Thursday, calling Murphy “a great ambassador for what theater could do” not only for actors but in the personal lives of his students.
“Theater is a team sport and it’s not just about you shining — you have to be there for your castmates and for the play. And those are things that a lot of actors don’t have those lessons today …Those were lessons that were so important for being a good citizen or a good worker in any kind of field ….and they made a very large part of both the actor I am and what kind of person I am.”
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