The world premiere of Tony winner Justin Peck and Pulitzer winner Jackie Sibblies Drury's new music-theatre work Illinois begins June 23 at The Fisher Center at Bard. Based on the 2005 concept album of the same name by Sufjan Stevens, Illinois plays as part of the Hudson Valley venue's SummerScape 2023 through July 2.
The full-length work explores Stevens' portrayals of the American heartland on the album. Featuring new arrangements by Stevens collaborator Timo Andrews for a live band and three voices, the work features a story by Peck and Pulitzer winner Drury (Fairview) that weaves it all together.
Peck, who listened to the album as a teenager, said in a statement, “I remember hearing this album for the first time and just being blown away by the whole world that it opened up: the way it fluidly could move between such a variety of styles and compositions. One moment, it’s a folk murder ballad; the next, it’s abstract instrumental music; the next, it’s a group singalong. This was before I realized I wanted to make dances, but I thought, ‘this is someone who really has an innate ability to write music for dance and music for storytelling.’”
Starring are Kara Chan (Four Quartets), Ben Cook (West Side Story), Jeanette Delgado (West Side Story), Gaby Diaz (So You Think You Can Dance?), Tilly Evans-Krueger (Moulin Rouge! The Musical), Jonathan Fahoury (New York City Ballet), Jennifer Florentino (West Side Story), Brandt Martinez (Moulin Rouge! The Musical), Craig Salstein (West Side Story), Ahmad Simmons (Fosse/Verdon), Byron Tittle (In the Heights), and Ricky Ubeda (So You Think You Can Dance?), with swings Jada German, Matthew Johnson, Zachary Gonder, and Dario Natarelli.
Rounding out the creative team are Tony-nominated scenic designer Adam Rigg, lighting designer Brandon Stirling-Baker, costume designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, sound designer Garth MacAleavey, props designer Andrew Diaz, and mask designer Julian Crouch.
Nathan Koci seves as music director, leading the band which includes Christina Courtin on violin and viola, Domenica Fossati on flute, Daniel Freedman on drums, Sean Forte on piano and keys, Kathy Halvorson on oboe, Koci on banjo, Eleonore Oppenheim on bass, Brandon Ridenour on trumpet, Kyra Sims on horn, and Jess Tsang on vibraphone. In addition to providing vocals with Shara Nova and Tasha, Tariq al-Sabir plays guitar and synths. The work's music shifts between genres ranging from folk and indie rock to marching band and ambient electronic.
The production previously announced that a press opening at a theatre in Chicago will be announced at a later date.