Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Illinoise’ Stage Adaptation Sets Spring New York Debut

Illinoise, a theatrical adaptation of Sufjan Stevens’ career-breakthrough 2005 concept album Illinois, will make its New York City premiere in March at Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory, the arts venue announced today.

A dance-music-theater hybrid, Illinoise will include music and lyrics by Stevens, based on his album, and will be directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Justin Peck (Carousel, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story) with a story by Peck and Pulitzer-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury (Fairview).

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The show, which will feature Timo Andres’ new arrangements of the entire Stevens album, will run from March 2-23, 2024, at the Upper East Side venue.

In its announcement today, the Armory described Stevens’ album as a “wildly inventive portrayal of the state’s people, landscapes, and history, complete with UFOs, zombies, and predatory wasps.”

“This musically ambitious work, which weaves together cinematic orchestral anthems, jazz riffs, and other musical influences to explore wide-ranging narratives about blossoming queerness and self-exploration is expanded upon through a mix of live music and impressionistic choreography to revisit the beloved album’s themes of self-discovery,” the Armory’s website notes.

The show description continues that Peck “embraces Stevens’s album in an ecstatic pageant of storytelling, theater, dance, and live music with a cast of virtuosic dancers, singers, and musicians…”

Andres’ arrangements for a live band and three voices range in style “from DIY folk and indie rock to marching band and ambient electronics.” Says the Armory synopsis, “this bold, new music-theater production leads audiences on a mighty journey through the American heartland, from campfire storytelling to the edges of the cosmos.”

The stage adaptation was originally commissioned, developed, produced, and premiered last spring at the Fisher Center at Bard, where Daniel Fish’s acclaimed Tony-winning revival of Oklahoma! got its start.

The famously press-shy Stevens, 48, recently made headlines when he disclosed in September that he had been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome and was relearning to walk after the neurological disorder left him with no mobility. He chronicled his hospital stay with a series of Instagram posts, but has not shared new information since an October 6 message in which he dedicated his just-released studio album Javelin to his late partner Evans Richardson.

Richardson, the Chief-of-Staff of the Studio Museum in Harlem, died on April 30 at the age of 43.

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