‘Illinoise,’ a Sufjan Stevens Dance Musical, Is Moving to Broadway

“Illinoise,” a dance-driven, dialogue-free musical adapted from a much-loved 2005 album by Sufjan Stevens, will transfer to Broadway next month.

The show, which is a collaboration between the celebrated choreographer Justin Peck and the Pulitzer-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury, is to open on April 24 at the St. James Theater; the run is to be limited, with a scheduled closing date of Aug. 10.

“Illinoise” depicts a group of young creative people gathered around a campfire to share stories about their lives; it ultimately focuses on the life of a man who is finding his way while confronting grief. “A lot of the show is really about the catharsis of opening up to the community around oneself,” Peck, who is directing and choreographing the show, said in an interview.

“Illinoise” joins a crowded spring season on Broadway, which has a heavy concentration of openings in late April, posing significant economic challenges for producers because costs have risen and audience numbers have fallen since the coronavirus pandemic.

But the creators and backers of “Illinoise” want to capitalize on their show’s momentum: It is just wrapping up a sold-out run at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan, and it also had successful runs earlier this year at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and last year at Bard College’s Fisher Center.

The transfer will be unusually fast, with just 29 days between the end of the run at the Armory and the start of the run at the St. James. There will be a brief rehearsal period, but no previews; the first performance will also be the opening, which is uncommon for Broadway.

“We have this kind of lightning in a bottle with this show that is not something that one can create intentionally,” Peck said. “We want to preserve the energy of the show, and the longer we wait between phases of this, the greater we risk losing what that energy is.”

“Illinoise” is performed by a dozen acting dancers and a trio of vocalists, along with a live band.

The show’s use of dance to drive a narrative is not unprecedented: The history of such so-called dansicals includes the Tony-winning “Contact,” which opened in 2000, as well as the 2002 production that most influenced Peck, “Movin’ Out,” which Twyla Tharp choreographed using the songs of Billy Joel.

“The music and the story and the movement combine in your own mind, rather than being combined onstage in front of you,” Drury said in an interview. “And there’s something about that that feels really beautiful and exciting. It just allows the audience to really empathize and connect emotionally with what’s going on onstage.”

The Broadway run is being produced by Orin Wolf, John Styles and David Binder, in association with Seaview.

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