Theater News

Justin Peck’s Stage Adaptation of Sufjan Stevens’s Illinois Sets World Premiere

An ensemble of dancers and musicians will bring Stevens’s 2005 concept album to life onstage.

Ricky Ubeda and Ahmad Simmons in rehearsal for Illinois.
(© Maria Baranova)

The Fisher Center at Bard will present the world premiere of Illinois, a music-theater work based on Sufjan Stevens’s acclaimed 2005 concept album of the same name. Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner and frequent Stevens collaborator Justin Peck (Carousel, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story), performances will run June 23-July 2.

Illinois kicks off SummerScape 2023 (June-August, 2023), the Fisher Center’s annual summer festival. The production features music and lyrics by Stevens and a story by Peck and Pulitzer Prize winner Jackie Sibblies Drury (Fairview, Marys Seacole). Timo Andres lends new arrangements to Stevens’s music, which will be performed by a live band led by Nathan Koci and and three vocalists, including Illinois album backing vocalist Shara Nova. Twelve dancers will propel the piece’s narrative, which, according to press materials, “leads audiences on a journey through the American heartland, from campfire storytelling to the edges of the cosmos.”

The cast of dancers includes Kara Chan, Ben Cook, Jeanette Delgado, Gaby Diaz, Tilly Evans-Krueger, Jonathan Fahoury, Jennifer Florentino, Brandt Martinez, Craig Salstein, Ahmad Simmons, Byron Tittle, and Ricky Ubeda, with swings Jada German, Matthew Johnson, Zachary Gonder, and Dario Natarelli.

The creative team additionally includes Adam Rigg (scenic design), Brandon Stirling-Baker (lighting design), Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung  (costume design), Garth MacAleavey (sound design), Andrew Diaz (props design), Julian Crouch (masks), Adriana Pierce (associate direction and choreography), Sean Forte (associate music direction), and Natalie Hratko (production stage manager).