Sufjan Stevens ‘Illinois’ Stage Musical Sets World Premiere; ‘West Side Story’ Choreographer Justin Peck To Direct

Illinois Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens Getty Images

A stage adaptation of Sufjan Stevens’ acclaimed 2005 album Illinois will make its world premiere this summer in a production by The Fisher Center at Bard where Daniel Fish’s eye-opening Tony-winning revival of Oklahoma! got its start.

A press opening for Illinois at an as-yet-undisclosed Chicago theater will be announced shortly.

Directing and choreographing Illinois will be Justin Peck, a Tony winner for his choreography of Broadway’s 2018 revival of Carousel. More recently, Peck choreographed Steven Spielberg’s 2021 screen adaptation of West Side Story.

Illinois will feature music and lyrics by Stevens and a story by Peck and Pulitzer Prize-winning Fairview playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury.

“Three brilliantly imaginative artists, Justin Peck, Sufjan Stevens, and Jackie Sibblies Drury, unite to create an ecstatic pageant of storytelling, theater, dance, and live music,” the Fisher Center said in the announcement statement. “Stevens’ 2005 concept album Illinois enjoys cult status for its lush orchestrations and wildly inventive portrayal of the state’s people, landscapes, and history, complete with UFOs, zombies, and predatory wasps.”

Peck, according to the Fisher, will transform the album into “a full-length theatrical performance with a cast of virtuosic dancers, singers, and musicians in a narrative” crafted by Drury. The musical will feature new arrangements of the entire album for a live band and three voices, ranging in style from DIY folk and indie rock to marching band and ambient electronics.

Illinois will lead us on a mighty journey through the American heartland, from campfire storytelling to the edges of the cosmos,” the Fisher said.

The critically acclaimed Illinois album, which made numerous Best Of lists upon its release, features “Chicago,” which became Stevens’ best-known song after it was featured in the 2006 film Little Miss Sunshine and, 16 years later, used as the opening theme for Netflix’s The Politician. (Stevens was Oscar-nominated for his 2017 song “Mystery of Love,” featured in the film Call Me By Your Name.)

Illinois also contains such fan favorites and concert staples as “Jacksonville,” “Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!,” “Casimir Pulaski Day,” and “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!”

The performance schedule at the Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, Fisher Center is Friday, June 23; Saturday, June 24; Sunday, June 25; Friday, June 30; Saturday, July 1; and Sunday, July 2. Illinois will be part of the center’s SummerScape 2023 programming.

For more information on the production schedule and the Fisher Center’s complete programming visit the center’s website.

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