Friday, April 12, 2024

Broadway Shocker: Unheard Of Last Minute Entry “Illinoise” Could Topple Tony Awards With April Afternoon Opening


There’s going to be a line outside the Park Avenue Armory today. That’s where “Illinoise” is playing for another week.

Theater fans are going to want to see this unusual musical before it makes a last minute, previously unannounced jump to Broadway on April 24th. “Illinoise” — lavishly praised by the New York Times — will suddenly qualify for the Tonys for Best Musical.

Whoops! A bunch of other shows have been working on that category for weeks and months. I’ll bet they’re a little surprised that show still playing off Broadway is gunning for them.

“Illinoise” is described a hybrid dance and acting musical based on the record album called “Illinois” by cult singer Sufjan Stevens. Stevens has been around a long time and made a lot of albums that his fans cherish even if they’re not commercial hits. “Illinois” is one of his “state” albums.

Tony winner Justin Peck and Jackie Sibblies Drury are the creators of the show with Peck directing and choreographing and co-writing with Drury.

The show features a dozen or so brilliant dancers including Ben Cook, who appeared in the most recent “West Side Story” movie and Broadway show. But the announcement was made so quickly that Robbie Fairchild, who stars at the Armory, wasn’t included in the announcement. Yet.

Rush rush rush: An opening performance has been set for April 24th at the St James Theater, but at 2PM. You read that right. In order to make Tony Award eligibility, “Illinoise” had to be shoe horned in on the afternoon before “Uncle Vanya” with Steve Carell opens that night at Lincoln Center. That’s a first! Reviews will be held for two days, and an actual opening night will come later.

Producers must feel they have a shot at overturning the Tony Awards race. There are currently a number of new musicals either already open, or opening. Among the leading candidates are two set for April: “Hell’s Angels” and “Suffs.” Other prospective nominees include “The Outsiders,” “Water for Elephants,” “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Back to the Future.”

This is guerilla marketing, folks! Exciting development!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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