Meet the Cast of ILLINOISE, Beginning Performances Today on Broadway

Performances will continue through August 10 at the St. James Theatre.

By: Apr. 24, 2024
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Meet the Cast of ILLINOISE, Beginning Performances Today on Broadway
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Performances begin today, April 24, for Illinoise, the theatrical adaptation of Grammy- and Oscar-nominated Sufjan Stevens’ concept album Illinois. Performances will continue through August 10 at the St. James Theatre.

The production features live music and vocals, choreography, and narratives centering on self-exploration and community, and a book by Tony Award-winning director-choreographer Justin Peck and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury.

The cast of Illinoise includes Ben CookGaby DiazAhmad SimmonsRicky Ubeda, Elijah Lyons, Shara Nova, Tasha Viets-VanlearYesenia AyalaKara ChanJeanette Delgado, Carlos Falú, Christine Flores, Jada German, Zack GonderManny HoustonRachel LockhartBrandt MartinezDario NatarelliTanner PorterTyrone ReeseCraig SalsteinByron Tittle, and Alejandro Vargas.

Meet the cast of Illinoise below!

IllinoiseBen Cook - Carl

Performing in his 6th Broadway show. Others include Ragtime, Billy in Billy Elliot, Tuck Everlasting, Mean Girls, and most recently Riff in Ivo van Hove’s West Side Story revival. National tours: Billy Elliot and Newsies. Film: Mouthpiece in Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning West Side Story, Beckett in Happiness for Beginners on Netflix, Aaron Fisher in HBO’s Paterno alongside Al Pacino, Race in Newsies: The Broadway Musical (Disney). TV: “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin” and “The Penguin” (HBO Max), “The First Lady” (Showtime) “Law & Order: SVU,” “FBI,” “Veep,” and “30 Rock.” Ben has been involved with Illinoise since the very beginning and is honored to bring it home to New York.

IllinoiseGaby Diaz - Shelby

Broadway debut. Regional: world premiere of Illinoise (Bard Fisher Center, Chicago Shakespeare Theater). Dance: Jennifer Lopez’s Las Vegas show All I Have, Season 12 Winner of So You Think You Can Dance tour, Shaping Sound Company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Off-Broadway: Andy Blankenbuehler’s Only Gold, Illinoise (Park Avenue Armory). Film: Tick Tick… Boom!, Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning remake of West Side Story, Spirited, Maestro. Television: all-star on seasons 13,14, 16 of “So You Think You Can Dance” (FOX). Awards: 2023 Chita Rivera Award Winner, 2015 America’s Favorite Dancer, season 12 of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Diaz is originally from Miami, Florida. Thank you to my family. Los quiero mucho.

IllinoiseAhmad Simmons - Douglas

Ahmad Simmons is a performing artist, theater maker, choreographer, and producer. Broadway: West Side Story, Hadestown (OBC), Carousel, Cats. Off-Broadway: Illinoise, Only Gold. Film: Maestro, Better Nate Than Ever. TV: Co-starred as Ben Vereen in “Fosse/Verdon,” “Dirty Dancing.” Tour: Hamilton (Dance Supervisor). BFA: Point Park University. Co-Founder of Arterial Projects. Deep love and gratitude to my incredible village of supporters and believers. @ahmadsimmons

IllinoiseRicky Ubeda - Henry

Honored to originate Henry in Illinoise, his fifth Broadway show. Broadway: On the Town, Cats (Chita Rivera Award nominee), Carousel, West Side Story. Off-Broadway: Freddie Falls in Love, Illinoise (PAA). Film: Spielberg’s West Side Story (Flaco), Maestro, In the Heights. Television: “So You Think You Can Dance” (season 11 winner), “Fosse/Verdon” (FX). Gratitude to Justin and all collaborators who made this piece of art possible. @RickyUbeda11

IllinoiseElijah Lyons - Arctiini

Elijah Lyons is a New York City based singer/actor/multi-instrumentalist/composer/songwriter. New York: Illinoise (Park Avenue Armory), Rathskeller: A Musical Elixir (The New Ohio Theatre). Regional: Sing Street (Huntington Theater), Illinoise (Chicago Shakespeare Theater). Studio Albums: The Singing Effect (Lead Singer, instrumentalist, producer), Human Hands Are Cigarettes (Singer, Producer, Instrumentalist). Elijah is originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, and is a New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts graduate (recipient of the Sanford Meisner Scholarship). Instagram: @ElijahJoLyons

IllinoiseShara Nova - Barsine

Credits: Illinoise, recording artist and touring member of Sufjan Stevens’ band for Illinoise; My Brightest Diamond. Composition: The Crossing, Conspirare, Roomful of Teeth, Detroit Opera, yMusic, BBC Concert Orchestra, Cincinnati Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra. Recordings: Age of Adz, You Us We All, Penelope, Unremembered, Death Speaks, Hazards of Love, The Blue Hour. Awards: Artist-in-Residence, Park Avenue Armory and MassMOCA; featured artist, Carnegie Hall, MoMA, The Momentary; Opera America Discovery and Knights grants; Kresge Arts and US Artists fellowships; three Grammy nominations (2023).

IllinoiseTasha Viets-Vanlear - Nacna

Credits: Illinoise (Bard Summerscape, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, PAA); 2018 Alone at Last, and 2021 critically acclaimed Tell Me What You Miss the Most (Father/Daughter Records); appearances at Sled Island (Calgary, Canada), FORM (Arcosanti, Arizona), Pitchfork Music Festival (Chicago, Illinois). Viets-VanLear is a singer and songwriter who performs under the name Tasha. Her third album will be released via Bayonet Records in September 2024.

IllinoiseYesenia Ayala - Performer

Broadway: West Side Story (Drama Desk Nominee, Best Supporting Actress), Carousel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Regional: Destiny of Desire (Old Globe). Film/TV: West Side Story, Incarcerated, “Fosse/Verdon,” “Modern Love.” Off-Broadway: Sweet Charity, Trip of Love. Other: Bombshell: In Concert, Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Three-time Chita Rivera Award Nominee for Best Female Dancer and Winner for Best Ensemble (Carousel).

IllinoiseKara Chan - Marion

Broadway debut. Off Broadway: Illinoise (Park Avenue Armory), Peter & the Wolf (Guggenheim Museum). Regional: Illinoise (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Bard Summerscape). Dance: Twyla Tharp Dance, Pam Tanowitz Dance, Mark Morris Dance Group, Dance Heginbotham, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Janis Brenner & Dancers, Gleich Dances. Awards: Dance Magazine’s 2020 “25 to Watch”. BFA: The Juilliard School. @_karachan

IllinoiseJeanette Delgado - Jo Davies

Jeanette Delgado (she/her) is honored to be making her Broadway debut! Regional: Illinoise (Bard Summerscape, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Park Avenue Armory). Dance: Twyla Tharp (New York City Center 2022), former principal dancer with Miami City Ballet. Film: Ili in Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning remake of West Side Story, Maestro. Awards: Princess Grace Award in Dance.

IllinoiseCarlos Falu - Performer

Carlos Falu is making his Broadway Debut in Illinoise. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico and has performed in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Bad Bunny World’s Hottest Tour, Coachella, and the Off-Broadway show The Buena Vista Social Club. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and support I receive from my friends and family. Beyond thrilled to join the company of Illinoise. “No la dejes caer” CESD agency. IG:

IllinoiseChristine Flores - Knox

Broadway Debut. Off-Broadway: Illinoise (Park Avenue Armory), Nutcracker Rouge Company XIV. Regional: Illinoise (Chicago Shakespeare Theater). Other credits: Pam Tanowitz Dance, Dance Heginbotham, Keigwin + Company, Danielle Russo Performance Project, NVA & Guests, SHINSA The Collective, DanceLab NY. Education: BFA New World School of the Arts. Awards: Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch.” For my family, Sumo, Slim, Chua and Órla. @christinefl0res

IllinoiseJada German - Performer

Broadway Debut! Graduate of Juilliard Dance, 2022. Company member with The Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Dance Credits: Twyla Tharp (In the Upper Room, New York City Center) and Illinoise (Bard, Chicago Shakespeare, Park Avenue Armory) among other freelance projects. Huge thanks to my family and friends. Mom, Dad, Joey, I wouldn’t be here without you. Endlessly proud to be part of Illinoise! @jadarosegerman

IllinoiseZack Gonder - Performer

Broadway Debut! Off-Broadway: Illinoise (Park Avenue Armory). Juilliard School 2018, Springboard Danse Montreal 2017. Pam Tanowitz Dance. Other performance credits include PARA.MAR Dance, Brian Brooks Moving Company, Mark Morris Dance Group, Zvi Gotheiner Dance, Studio 189, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Thank you to Justin Peck, and all of the collaborators on Illinoise. @zackgonder

IllinoiseManny Houston - Performer

Originally from Charleston, SC, and now based in NYC, is thrilled to make his Broadway debut in Illinoise. Last seen in Freestyle Love Supreme: Las Vegas and the original Off-Broadway cast of Forbidden Broadway: Next Generation. Manny is also a songwriter who holds a degree in classical piano performance from the College of Charleston.

IllinoiseRachel Lockhart - Morgan

Rachel Lockhart is making her Broadway debut in Illinoise. Off-Broadway: Illinoise (Park Avenue Armory and Chicago Shakespeare Theater). Dancer in X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X (The Metropolitan Opera). TV/Film: Doja Cat “2023 Music Video Awards” (MTV); Premiered on season 17 “So You Think You Can Dance” (FOX); “East New York” (CBS). Education: The Juilliard School BFA, Alabama School of Fine Arts, J. Lockhart Performing Arts Institute (under her mother’s direction). Choreography: Made by Women Dance Festival, Dance Theater of Harlem (Open House), Juilliard Choreographic Honors. Special thanks to my village and team at Bloc NYC. Dedicated to my late father, Bernard Lockhart. IG: @rachelxlockhart

IllinoiseBrandt Martinez - Clark

Theatre: Moulin Rouge (Original Broadway Cast 2019), Aladdin (Original Broadway Cast 2014), Fiddler on the Roof (Original Broadway Cast 2015), Natasha Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 (Original Broadway Cast 2016), Hamilton (2nd national tour). TV/Film: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “The Affair,” “The Last OG,” Disney’s Better Nate Than Ever, Annie Live on NBC. Special thanks to my Adrienne, Anami, and Vida.

IllinoiseDario Natarelli - Performer

Broadway Debut! Off-Broadway: Illinoise, Oliver!, The Tap Dance Kid, Ayodele Casel’s Artists At The Center, Tappin’ Thru Life. Regional: Vail Dance Festival, Kennedy Center, Newsies, Cabaret. TV/Film: Maestro, “SNL,” Macy’s Parade. YoungArts finalist, US Presidential Scholar in the Arts. LaGuardia Arts, BFA MT Pennsylvania State University #WeAre. Thank you, family, friends, mentors, MSA, and the Illinoise team for everything. Go In Rhythm. Instagram: @dario_natarelli

IllinoiseTanner Porter - Performer

Tanner Porter (Understudy Vocalist) is a composer-performer and songwriter. In her songs “that are by turns seductive and confessional” (Steve Smith, The New Yorker), Tanner explores her passion for storytelling. Her orchestral music, described as “drop-dead gorgeous” (Jim Munson, Broadway World), has been commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra (LOCC), Albany Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Ballet (“Kin,” choreography by Claudia Schreier), and orchestrated for the Boston Ballet (“Slipstream,” Schreier), among others.

IllinoiseTyrone Reese - Performer

Tyrone Reese (he/him) is a native of Mobile, AL. Reese is a graduating senior at the Juilliard School and a 2020 national YoungArts Foundation award winner in ballet. While at Juilliard, Reese has performed works by Rena Butler, Justin Peck, Ohad Naharin, Aszure Barton, and Jamar Roberts, among others. He is also the recipient of Juilliard’s Greene Foundation scholarship.

IllinoiseCraig Salstein - Boone

Former soloist with American Ballet Theatre. Broadway appearances include Carousel. Film work includes serving as Associate Choreographer for West Side Story by Steven Spielberg and Maestro directed by Bradley Cooper. Regional credits include performances at Bard Summerscape and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Trained at Miami City Ballet, recipient of the 1995 Grand Champion award on “Star Search.”

IllinoiseByron Tittle - Cass

Broadway Debut. As a decade-long company member of the Bessie-award winning tap dance company Dorrance Dance, Tittle also assisted Michelle Dorrance for her American Ballet Theatre debut in 2018. Commercial credits include Janet Jackson, Usher, Doja Cat, Hugh Jackman, Jason Mraz, and Nicki Minaj. Television and film credits include “In the Heights” (2019), “Maestro” (2024), James Corden, “Good Morning America,” and “The 2022 Met Gala.” Tittle is humbled to be the recipient of a 2019 Princess Grace Fellowship in dance.

IllinoiseAlejandro Vargas - Wayne

Alejandro Vargas is so excited to be making his Broadway debut in Illinoise. Off-Broadway: Illinoise (Park Ave Armory) Regional: Illinoise (Chicago Shakespeare Theater) Dance: ISHIDA Dance; works by Ohad Naharin, Aszure Barton, Camille A. Brown, Edward Clug, Omar Román de Jesus, Rena Butler, Jamar Roberts, Tiler Peck, amongst others. Education: Candidate for BFA May 2024, The Juilliard School. Alejandro is endlessly grateful to his family and friends who have long supported him throughout his journey.

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