Illinoisa theatrical adaptation of Sufjan Stevens’ career-breaking 2005 concept album Illinoiswill premiere in New York in March at the Park Avenue Armory arts center in Manhattan, announced today.
A hybrid of dance, music and theater, Illinois will feature music and lyrics by Stevens, based on his album, and will be directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Justin Peck (Merry-go-roundSteven Spielberg West Side Story) with a story by Peck and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury (Fairview).
The event, which will feature new arrangements of Stevens’ entire album by Timo Andres, will take place March 2-23, 2024 at the Upper East Side venue.
In today’s announcement, Armory described Stevens’ album as “a wildly imaginative portrait of the state’s people, landscapes and history, complete with UFOs, zombies and predatory wasps.”
“This musically ambitious work, which weaves cinematic orchestral anthems, jazz riffs and other musical influences to explore comprehensive narratives of burgeoning queerness and self-discovery, is expanded through a mix of live music and impressionistic choreography to return to the album’s beloved themes of self-discovery,” in Armory website notes.
The show description goes on to say that Peck “embraces Stevens’ album in an ecstatic spectacle of storytelling, theater, dance and live music with a cast of virtuoso dancers, singers and musicians…”
Andres’ arrangements for a live band and three voices range in style “from stand-alone folk and indie rock to marching bands and ambient electronica.” As Armory’s synopsis reads, “this bold new musical and theater production takes audiences on an extraordinary journey through the heart of America, from campfire stories to the ends of space.”
The stage adaptation was originally commissioned, developed, produced and premiered last spring at the Fisher Center in Bard, where Daniel Fish’s acclaimed revival of Daniel Fish’s Tony Award-winning novel Oklahoma! has its beginning.
The famously press-shy Stevens, 48, recently made headlines when he revealed in September that he had been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome and was learning to walk again after the neurological disorder left him unable to move. He described his stay in the hospital, among others: Instagram series posts, but has not shared any new information since the October 6 message in which he dedicated his just-released studio album Javelin his late partner Evans Richardson.
Richardson, chief of staff of the Studio Museum in Harlem, died on April 30 at the age of 43.