Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway

Illinoise is running on Broadway at the St. James Theatre.

By: Apr. 26, 2024
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Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway
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The Broadway critics are weighing in for the final time of the 2023/24 season! Illinoise officially opened on Broadway earlier this week at the St. James Theatre, making it eligible for 2024 Tony Awards consideration.

Based on the landmark Sufjan Stevens album, Illinoise is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Justin Peck with a book by Justin Peck and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury.

The cast of Illinoise includes Ben Cook, Gaby Diaz, Ahmad Simmons, Ricky Ubeda, Elijah Lyons, Shara Nova, Tasha Viets-VanLear, Yesenia Ayala, Kara Chan,Jeanette Delgado, Carlos Falú, Christine Flores, Jada German, Zack Gonder, Manny Houston, Rachel Lockhart, Brandt Martinez, Dario Natarelli, Tanner Porter, Tyrone Reese, Craig Salstein, Byron Tittle, and Alejandro Vargas.

Check out what the critics are saying about the new dance musical below! 

Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway Robert Hofler, The Wrap: At the Armory, I found “Illinoise” not only sentimental but downright whimsical. It was intriguing to see three singers walk out on stage wearing enormous fairy wings (costumes by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung). Only later did I realize that they were moth wings, because “Illinoise,” with its book by Justin Peck and Jackie Sibblies Drury, is a coming-of-age story. The dancers on stage can be seen as human caterpillars that blossom into human moths. “Illinoise” could be called “Metamorphosis,” but the songs come from Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 concept album, “Illinois.” The switch from that original title to “Illinoise” is not a typo. Chalk it up to the change being another metamorphosis, using the spelling seen on the album’s stylized cover, which read “Come on feel the Illinoise.” Beyond “sentimental,” the other word to describe “Illinoise” is “precious.”

Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: “Illinoise” is far from a typical Broadway show, and if you’re headed to this 90-minute piece, be aware that you are in for a sensorial experience primarily, even if the emotional underpinning of Peck’s work occasionally reaches out from the stage and grabs your heart. The piece sits very comfortably in the St. James Theatre, a more intimate venue than “Illinoise” enjoyed either in Chicago or on Park Avenue. It’s not a show for all tastes but it certainly makes the case that it belongs on Broadway.

Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: Without a word of spoken dialogue, the show pulls us into late adolescence, a time when love, anguish and everything in between are felt perhaps with the greatest intensity. The book co-written by director-choreographer Peck and Drury (who won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with her brilliant meta-theatrical race inquiry, Fairview) is skillfully shaped yet invisible in the best sense of undiluted physical, sensorial and elemental storytelling.

Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway Christian Lewis, Variety: Peck’s choreography is as marvelous as it is moving. Several dance motifs repeat, a nod to the theme of memory and haunting. Often these are tied to characters, like Carl and Henry’s balance-beam swaggering and swaying, or the side-by-side swing-inspired dance and handshake of Henry, Carl, and Shelby. Peck’s choreography is decidedly modern, but his ballet background informs the work, with long-line leg extensions at classic angles and a flurry of precisely-spotted spins and turns.

Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: There is near total overlap with the queer love story, involving Ben Cook as Carl, Henry’s small town friend and first love; Gaby Diaz as Shelby, Carl’s first love; and Ahmad Simmons as Douglas, Henry’s big-city mature love. If love suffuses the tale, it is as much about risk, adventure, loss and grief. This overwhelming jumble of emotions is expressed through an impressive synthesis of classical, modern and street choreography, accompanying an eclectic and pleasing mix of orchestral music, jazz, electronica, indie folk-rock – and sounds in-between.

Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway Roma Torre, New York Stage Review: There is not a word of dialogue in Illinoise, but this hybrid production fusing dance and music accomplishes far more than mere words can express. Inspired by Sufjan Stevens’ groundbreaking concept album, Illinois, choreographer Justin Peck came up with his own theatrical concept. With Jackie Sibblies Drury as co–book writer, they crafted a narrative that translates the emotional import of Stevens songs into a unique language that can best be described as poetry in motion.

Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway David Finkle, New York Stage Review: There’s no denying that Illinoise is effective, a large billboard on Adam Rigg’s industrial-slash-forest set announcing the title as well as other information. It may be that longtime Stevens fans need only hear the material they love now presented as dance to carry on about it. But providing the cherished songs with a connecting plot hasn’t necessarily resulted in an instantly graspable tale.

Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway Joey Sims, Theatrely: At the Armory, those same stories felt monumental — a revolt of mighty compassion against a cruel, suffocating world. And now, as Ilinoise settles in on Broadway, Peck has found a harmony between those two modes, hitting on a beautiful alchemy of personal warmth and epic scale.

Review Roundup: ILLINOISE Arrives on Broadway
Average Rating: 80.0%

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