Robbie Fairchild, Ricky Ubeda & More to Star in Justin Peck & Jackie Sibblies Drury's ILLINOISE at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Illinoise is beginning performances in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on January 28, 2024.

By: Nov. 30, 2023
Robbie Fairchild, Ricky Ubeda & More to Star in Justin Peck & Jackie Sibblies Drury's ILLINOISE at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
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Chicago Shakespeare Theater has revealed the cast of the highly anticipated Illinoise, a new kind of musical based on Sufjan Stevens’ acclaimed concept album. Illinoise embraces Grammy and Oscar-nominated Stevens’ landmark album in a genre-bursting theatrical experience that inspires hope. With a story crafted by Tony Award winner Justin Peck (New York City Ballet, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story) and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury (Fairview), and original choreography by Peck, Illinoise glows around a campfire as virtuosic dancers, singers, and a live band lead audiences on a mighty journey.

Beginning performances in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on January 28, 2024, the dance company features Kara Chan, Ben Cook, Jeanette Delgado, Gaby Diaz, Robbie Fairchild, Christine Flores, Jada German, Zachary Gonder, Rachel Lockhart, Dario Natarelli, Tyrone Reese, Craig Salstein, Ahmad Simmons, Byron Tittle, Ricky Ubeda, and Alejandro Vargas. The band includes vocalists Shara Nova and Tasha Viets-VanLear, and instrumentalists Christina Courtin, Sean Forte, Domenica Fossati, Daniel Freedman, Kathy Halvorson, Nathan Koci, Eleonore Oppenheim, Brett Parnell, Brandon Ridenour, Kyra Sims, and Jessica Tsang.

With inclusion on several “best of the decade” lists, including those of Paste, NPR, and Rolling Stone, Sufjan Stevens’ acclaimed 2005 concept album Illinois enjoys cult status for its lush orchestrations and wildly inventive portrayal of the state’s people, landscapes, and history—complete with UFOs, zombies, and predatory wasps. This ambitious work weaves together delicate folk narratives about blossoming queerness, orchestral anthems destined for cinematic montages, and jazz tunes about the state’s ghost towns. Featuring new arrangements of the entire album by composer and pianist Timo Andres, this bold, new kind of musical adds live music and impressionistic choreography to revisit these themes of self-discovery. Following a premiere production at the Fisher Center at Bard in summer 2023, Illinoise marks its official press opening at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, before a New York run at Park Avenue Armory in March.

Featured in the dance company of Illinoise is Gaby Diaz, winner of So You Think You Can Dance Season 12, whose film credits include West Side Story, tick, tick…BOOM!, Spirited, and the upcoming Maestro. Diaz starred Off-Broadway in Only Gold, for which she won the Chita Rivera Award. Also in the company are Ben Cook, who appeared in the film West Side Story and on Broadway in Ragtime, Billy Elliot (for which he was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award), Tuck Everlasting, Mean Girls, and West Side Story; Robbie Fairchild, whose performance in An American in Paris was nominated for a Tony Award and won the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Chita Rivera Awards, and who starred in the film Cats and the Netflix series Soundtrack; and Ricky Ubeda, winner of So You Think You Can Dance Season 11, who appeared in FX’s Fosse/Verdon, in the films West Side Storyand Maestro, and on Broadway in West Side Story, On The Town, Cats, and Carousel.

The dance company of Illinoise also includes Kara Chan (Twyla Tharp Dance, American Ballet Theatre), Jeanette Delgado (Miami City Ballet, West Side Storyfilm), Christine Flores (Dance Heginbotham, Pam Tanowitz Dance), Jada German(Twyla Tharp Dance, Metropolitan Opera), Zachary Gonder (Carmen at Lyric Opera, Pam Tanowitz Dance), Rachel Lockhart (Juilliard’s Choreographic Honors program, Jacob’s Pillow), Dario Natarelli (New York City Center Encores!, Maestrofilm), Tyrone Reese (Juilliard School), Craig Salstein (Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, associate choreographer for West Side Story and Maestro films), Ahmad Simmons (Fosse/Verdon on FX, Hadestown, West Side Story, Carousel,and Cats on Broadway), Byron Tittle (Dorrance Dance, In the Heights film), and Alejandro Vargas (Juilliard School). The band includes vocalists Shara Nova and Tasha Viets-VanLear, and instrumentalists Christina Courtin, Sean Forte, Domenica Fossati, Daniel Freedman, Kathy Halvorson, Nathan Koci, Eleonore Oppenheim, Brett Parnell, Brandon Ridenour, Kyra Sims, and Jessica Tsang.

In addition to Stevens, Peck, and Drury, the creative team includes Music Director and Supervisor Nathan Koci, Music Arranger and Orchestrator Timo Andres, Scenic Designer Adam Rigg, Lighting Designer Brandon Stirling Baker, Sound Designer Garth MacAleavey, Costume Designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, Props Designer Andrew Diaz, Mask Designer Julian Crouch, Associate Director and Choreographer Adriana Pierce, Associate Music Director Sean Forte, Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger, Production Manager Brian Freeland, Executive Producer Nate Koch, General Management by NVK/Jenna Ready and Joanna Pisano, and Booking Agent ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann. Illinoisewas originally commissioned, developed, and produced at the Fisher Center at Bard, is a co-commission of the Fisher Center at Bard, Park Avenue Armory, ChicagoShakespeare Theater, Southbank Centre, TO Live, and the Perelman Performing Arts Center, and is produced in association with ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann.

Also onstage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in early 2024 is Richard III, playing in the Courtyard Theater February 2–March 3, 2024. In his first production as artistic director, Edward Hall directs Tony Award-nominated actor, Paralympic champion, and bilateral above-knee amputee Katy Sullivan in the title role. A divided kingdom is fertile ground for the charismatic and unscrupulous Richard to seize power and exact revenge—and no one is safe from his tyranny. Full of scathing dark comedy and high-stakes family drama, this tale grapples with violence, power, and the gray area between good and evil. This will mark the first major US production of Richard III to feature a woman with a disability in the title role.

Accessible and enhanced performances for Illinoise include:

  • ASL duo-interpreted performance – Friday, February 9, 2024, at 7:00 p.m.All dialogue and lyrics are translated into American Sign Language by two certified interpreters.
  • Audio-described performance with optional touch tour – Sunday, February 11, 2024, at 2:30 p.m. A program that provides spoken narration of a play’s key visual elements for patrons who are blind or have low vision. Touch Tours provide patrons the opportunity to experience, firsthand, a production’s design elements.
  • Open-captioned performance – Wednesday, February 14, 2024, at 1:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. A text display of the words and sounds heard during a play, synced live with the action onstage.

More information at www.chicagoshakes.com/illinoise and www.illinoiseonstage.com, or social media at @chicagoshakes and @IllinoiseOnStage.
 

Illinoise will be presented January 28–February 18, 2024, in The Yard at ChicagoShakespeare Theater. Single tickets starting at $45 are on sale now. Special discounts are available for audience members under the age of 35 and for groups of 10 or more. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit www.chicagoshakes.com.

ABOUT SUFJAN STEVENS

Sufjan Stevens is a singer, songwriter, and composer living in New York. His preoccupation with epic concepts has motivated two state records (Michigan and Illinois), a collection of sacred and biblical songs (Seven Swans), an electronic album for the animals of the Chinese zodiac (Enjoy Your Rabbit), a full length partly inspired by the outsider artist Royal Robertson (The Age of Adz), a masterwork memorializing and investigating his relationship with his late mother (Carrie & Lowell), and two Christmas box sets (Songs for Christmas, vol. 1–5 and Silver & Gold, vol. 6–10). BAM has commissioned two works from Stevens, a programmatic tone poem for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (The BQE) and an instrumental accompaniment to slow-motion rodeo footage (Round-Up). He has collaborated extensively with the New York City Ballet choreographer Justin Peck (Year of the Rabbit, Everywhere We Go, Countenance of Kings, Principia, The Decalogue, and Reflections). Stevens’ Planetarium, a collaborative album with Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, and James McAlister imbued with themes of the cosmos, was released in 2017 to widespread critical praise. Stevens also contributed three much-lauded songs to Luca Guadagnino’s critically acclaimed film Call Me By Your Name, including the Oscar and Grammy-nominated song “Mystery of Love.” In 2020, he shared Aporia, a collaborative new age album made with his stepfather Lowell Brams, and his eighth studio album, The Ascension, a reflection on the state of humanity in freefall and a call for a total transformation of consciousness. In early 2021, he released Convocations, a five-volume, two-and-a-half-hour requiem mass for present times. The most recent studio album by Stevens—A Beginner’s Mind—features songs inspired in part by popular films. It was released in the fall of 2021 and is a collaboration with singer-songwriter Angelo DeAugustine. In October 2023, Stevens’ tenth solo studio album, Javelin, was released.

ABOUT Justin Peck

Justin Peck is a director, choreographer, filmmaker, and dancer based in New York City. He is the Resident Choreographer and Artistic Associate of the New York City Ballet, the second person in the institution’s history to hold this title. He has developed and created over 50 dance and theater works that have been presented on stages around the world, including Lincoln Center, the Palais Garnier, Sydney Opera House, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Broadway (most notably with his 2018 Tony Award-winning production of Carousel). His work has been performed by companies such as the Paris Opera Ballet, Australian Ballet, Dresden Semperoper Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, Boston Ballet, Juilliard, National Ballet of Canada, Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, LA Dance Project, Dutch National Ballet, the School of American Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and Houston Ballet among many others.

Peck works extensively as a filmmaker with credits including direction of music videos for The National, Chris Thile, and Dan Deacon; choreographing the 2021 film West Side Story in collaboration with director Steven Spielberg; and being commissioned by The New York Times to direct 10 films celebrating the best acting performances of the 2018 year, which included performances by Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Lakeith Stanfield, Glenn Close, Emma Stone, and Toni Collette.

Peck celebrates the art of collaboration and is honored to have worked across mediums with a wide array of luminaries, including Sufjan Stevens, Raf Simons, Elizabeth Moss, Steven Spielberg, Caroline Shaw, Jeffrey Gibson, Renee Fleming, Shepard Fairey, Sofia Coppola, Stephen Sondheim, Shantelle Martin, Humberto Leon, Bradley Cooper, Nico Muhly, John Baldessari, Dries Van Noten, Damien Chazelle, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Marcel Dzama, and Jody Lee Lipes. Peck danced with New York City Ballet from 2006-2019, eventually achieving the rank of soloist in 2013. He has performed a vast repertoire of works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Alexei Ratmansky, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Christopher Wheeldon, and many others.

Peck’s honors include the Tony Award for Best Choreography for the Broadway production of Carousel (2018), the National Arts Award (2018), the Golden Plate Honor from the Academy of Achievement (2019), the Bessie Award for Outstanding Production for Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes (2015), and the World Choreography Award for the film West Side Story (2022).

ABOUT Jackie Sibblies Drury

Jackie Sibblies Drury’s plays include Marys Seacole (OBIE Award), Fairview(Pulitzer Prize), Really, Social Creatures, and We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. The presenters of her plays include Donmar Warehouse, The Young Vic, Lincoln Center Theater's LCT3, Soho Rep., Berkeley Rep, New York City Players & Abrons Arts Center, Victory Gardens, Trinity Rep, Woolly Mammoth, Undermain Theatre, InterAct Theatre, Actors Theater of Louisville, Company One, Bush Theatre, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Drury has developed her work at Sundance, Bellagio Center, Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep, Soho Rep. Writer/Director Lab, New York Theatre Workshop, Bushwick Starr, LARK, and MacDowell Colony, among others. She has received a PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award, a Steinberg Playwright Award, a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a Jerome Fellowship at The LARK, a United States Artists Fellowship, a Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, and a Windham-Campbell Literary Prize in Drama.

ABOUT CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER

Regional Tony Award-recipient Chicago Shakespeare Theater produces a bold and innovative year-round season—plays, musicals, world premieres, family productions, and theatrical presentations from around the globe—alongside nationally recognized education programming serving tens of thousands of students, teachers, and lifelong learners each year. Founded in 1986, the Theater’s onstage work has expanded to as many as twenty productions and 650 performances annually. ChicagoShakespeare is dedicated to welcoming the next generation of theatergoers; one in four of its audience members is under the age of eighteen. As a nonprofit organization, the Theater works to embrace diversity, prioritize inclusion, provide equitable opportunities, and offer an accessible experience for all. On the Theater’s three stages at its home on Navy Pier, in classrooms and neighborhoods across the city, and in venues around the world, Chicago Shakespeare is a multifaceted cultural hub—inviting audiences, artists, and community members to share powerful stories that connect and inspire. www.chicagoshakes.com.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy





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