Exclusive: Producer David Binder Explains How ILLINOISE Has Made for a Remarkable Journey

Illinoise is Tony-nominated for Best Musical.

By: May. 31, 2024
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Exclusive: Producer David Binder Explains How ILLINOISE Has Made for a Remarkable Journey
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As the 77th Annual Tony Awards quickly approach, BroadwayWorld has invited the producers of the Best Production nominees to reflect on their experiences in bringing their shows to Broadway in this stellar season.

Today, we hear from producer David Binder, who contributed the below essay about his four-time Tony-nominated Best Musical, Illinoise.

At the end of the evening, after road trips to Chicago, romance in New York, and flights through the heavens with Superman -- after all that, the lights dim and the focus shifts to a beam of light directly onto our protagonist, Henry. He stands downstage, alone and quiet.  He has just finished sharing his story and we, the audience, are holding our breath.  In one last moment, Henry reaches out towards us and 1,300 people collectively gasp. The lights go out.

It’s a moment I’ve witnessed a dozen times and yet, it remains stunning. 

What follows, the roar of appreciation, of love, of generosity from the audience – young and old and of all races - is a chance for the audience to return something to an incredible cohort of artists - dancers, singers and musicians – who have just shared a story. Their blazing sound of appreciation, that cathartic release, makes a sound that lifts us all up even further.

But, as Justin Peck says, it started with a whisper.  

Justin heard a whisper in Sufjan Stevens music. He nurtured those thoughts and ideas for years, bringing in Jackie Sibblies Drury to collaborate as the story became bigger in their imaginations. 

This is something that only artists can do.  

From early on, Justin had an artistic confidant and partner in Orin Wolf. Orin has always been artist-focused and a true collaborator. Over time, I saw Illinoise grow from that whisper into a genre-bending, narratively rich musical. It spoke to me artistically and it ignited my long-held passion to support work that is unique and truly alive. Work that is created at the intersection of artistic disciplines. Work that needs new language to describe its innovation. 


I watched from the early days at Bard through to Chicago Shakespeare, Park Avenue Armory, and Broadway as Justin and Jackie developed the show and fine-tuned how the story unfolded.  I had a front row seat as they pushed the boundaries of what was possible on a theatrical stagemelding music, movement, sound, dreams, and story.   I watched as that collective gasp that we all shared at the end of the night grew deeper and more pronounced.   

Sitting in the St. James each night, I know I am watching something truly unforgettable in a life of theatre going.  It’s like watching Neil slay the audience as Hedwig or the Pina Bausch company rock the BAM Opera House.  

Illinoise is a full musical experience that, as Sara Holdren perfectly says “is devoid of irony or cynicism. Illinoise makes you feel.” And isn’t that why we all come to the theater? To share in story, to be delighted, to see the world in a different way, and in each our own way, to share in a collective gasp.

I love being a part of Illinoise. I love being part of a show like this, made by such adventurous artists. I love watching how it has been embraced by Broadway and by New York. As my college and friend John Cameron Mitchell says, spending life in the pursuit of art is always worthwhile. It makes for a remarkable journey.

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