Sufjan Stevens – the songwriter of choice for people who like to imagine they are starring in a bittersweet, indie dramedy based on their life – is heading to Broadway (a modest-sized performing arts centre in upstate New York.)
Across a prolific career, Steven’s concept album Illinois (2005) remains his most celebrated. Its lyrics explore the landscapes, history and people of the midwestern state, including songs about UFO sightings; ghost towns, predatory wasps and Chicagoan serial killer John Wayne Gacy. In “Casimir Pulaski Day”, a local state holiday forms the backdrop to a desperately sad story about Stevens’ religious upbringing and a childhood friend dying from cancer (featuring the lyrics, “Tuesday night at the Bible study, we lift our hands and pray over your body… but nothing ever happens” 😩)
It’s an album which deserves its cult status, and now it’s getting a musical theatre adaptation – due to run this June at Bard’s College Fischer Centre. Plot details are thin on the ground, but there is some stellar talent involved: Justin Peck, who choreographed a recent revival of West Side Story, is directing the show, and has collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury on the story.
According to the Fischer Centre’s website, the show promises to be an “ecstatic pageant of storytelling, theatre, dance, and live music”, which will lead the audience “on a mighty journey through the American heartland, from campfire storytelling to the edges of the cosmos.”