Illinoise: a New Kind of Musical

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Matt Murphy

In a spectacular showcase beginning January 28, 2024, at The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, the cast of “Illinoise” boasts a stellar lineup featuring Kara Chan, Ben Cook, Jeanette Delgado, Gaby Diaz, Robbie Fairchild, and many more.

This production breathes new life into Sufjan Stevens’ acclaimed 2005 album “Illinois,” known for its inventive portrayal of the state’s history, landscapes, and people. With new arrangements by composer Timo Andres, the musical integrates live music and impressionistic choreography, creating a unique and bold theatrical experience. Following a successful premiere at the Fisher Center at Bard, “Illinoise” officially opens at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, with a subsequent run at Park Avenue Armory in New York.

Diverse Cast

The diverse cast includes Gaby Diaz, winner of So You Think You Can Dance Season 12, along with notable performers like Ben Cook, Robbie Fairchild, and Ricky Ubeda. The production, set to explore themes of self-discovery, encompasses delicate folk narratives, anthemic orchestral compositions, and jazz tunes reflecting the state’s diverse stories.

The creative team, led by director and choreographer John Heginbotham, aims to bring Stevens’ cult-status album to life with immersive elements. The production features a talented band, including vocalists Shara Nova and Tasha Viets-VanLear, along with instrumentalists contributing to the lush orchestrations.

Co-Commission

“Illinoise” is part of a co-commission by major cultural institutions, including the Fisher Center at Bard, Park Avenue Armory, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Southbank Centre, TO Live, and the Perelman Performing Arts Center. The musical unfolds against the backdrop of a rich creative team, including Music Director Nathan Koci, Scenic Designer Adam Rigg, and Costume Designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung.

In addition to “Illinoise,” Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents “Richard III,” directed by Edward Hall, featuring Tony Award-nominated actor Katy Sullivan in the title role. This groundbreaking production marks the first major U.S. presentation of “Richard III” with a woman with a disability in the lead.

Accessible and enhanced performances for “Illinoise” include ASL-interpreted, audio-described, and open-captioned shows, ensuring an inclusive experience for all theatergoers. Tickets for “Illinoise” are on sale now, starting at $45, with special discounts available. Don’t miss this extraordinary journey into the heart of Illinois through the transformative power of music and theater. For more information and tickets, visit www.chicagoshakes.com.

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