The world premiere of new music-theatre work Illinois has found its cast. Directed and choreographed by Tony winner Justin Peck, Illinois will make its debut as part of SummerScape 2023 at The Fisher Center at Bard June 23-July 2.
Starring will be 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.
Based on Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 concept album of the same name, the full-length work explores the album's portrayals of the American heartland. Featuring new arrangements by Stevens collaborator Timo Andrews for a live band and three voices, Peck and Pulitzer winner Jackie Sibblies Drury (Fairview) collaborated on the story which weaves it all together.
Nathan Koci will serve as music director. The band will include 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 will also play guitar and synths. The work's music shifts between genres ranging from folk and indie rock to marching band and ambient electronic.
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.
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.’”
A press opening at a theatre in Chicago will be announced in the coming weeks.