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  • Delven Shaw


As the centerpiece of its 2021-22 season, The Joffrey Ballet proudly presents a spring program featuring the world-premiere adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men by choreographer Cathy Marston, set to a score by Academy Award®-nominated composer Thomas Newman, his first-ever work for ballet. The program, also including the Joffrey premiere of Serenade by dance pioneer George Balanchine, will be presented during the Joffrey’s inaugural season at the historic Lyric Opera House in downtown Chicago at 20 North Upper Wacker Drive, in ten performances only, April 27–May 8, 2022.

The program begins with the Joffrey premiere of Serenade, set to the score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Serenade is George Balanchine’s first ballet created in America in 1934 and originated as a lesson in stage technique, using unexpected events from rehearsals as the basis for the choreography. According to The George Balanchine Trust, “When one student fell, he incorporated it. Another day, a student arrived late, and this too became part of the ballet.” Balanchine subsequently reworked the ballet several times before landing on its current iteration, which features four movements based on a score by Tchaikovsky: Sonatina, Waltz, Russian Dance, and Elegy.

The world premiere of Of Mice and Men marks Cathy Marston’s first original creation for The Joffrey Ballet. The dance story follows George Milton and Lennie Small, two drifters looking for work on the golden farms of Depression-era California. When tragedy strikes, George and Lennie face difficult choices that test the nature of their friendship. Marston goes from page-to-stage with Steinbeck’s tender tale of friendship, perseverance, and sacrifice, with an original score by multiple Academy Award®-nominated composer (The Shawshank Redemption, 1917, Skyfall) Thomas Newman.

Serenade and Of Mice and Men feature live music performed by the Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Scott Speck, Music Director of The Joffrey Ballet.

“Thomas Newman is one of the most potent and evocative voices in Hollywood music, his versatility is at the top of his class – and incredibly, this is his first-ever score for ballet,” said Speck. “He has a remarkable way of evoking the wide-open spaces, dusty air and countrified feel of Central California nearly a century ago. Newman’s rhythmic drive takes the form of instruments that you might have heard playing in a saloon band in that time and place – a piano, a guitar, maybe a solo violin. But just as often, we hear the full orchestra in all its glory. Kudos to Cathy Marston for suggesting him as our composer, and to The Joffrey Ballet for making it happen!”

Thomas Newman is widely acclaimed as one of today’s most prominent composers for film. He has composed music for more than 50 motion pictures (American Beauty, Little Women, Road to Perdition, Finding Nemo, Wall-E) and television series and has earned 15 Academy Award nominations, six Grammy Awards and an Emmy Award.

In addition to Newman, Of Mice and Men includes an all-star creative team known for theatrical excellence; among them: Dramaturg Edward Kemp; set and lighting design by Lorenzo Savoini; and costume design by Bregje van Balen.

“The story was written during The Great Depression, and right now we are going through somewhat of our own depression. It is a difficult time, and one must draw upon friendship to get through it,” said Marston. “I watched a video about an opera based on Of Mice and Men. In it, Steinbeck advises the composer, saying the opera didn’t need to be set during a specific time. I think the author’s intention was to imply that the story is timeless. This ballet is something audiences will relate to, the idea of letting something go, no matter how painful it might be.”

Tickets and Schedule

The Joffrey Ballet performs its spring program Wednesday, April 27 – Sunday, May 8, 2022. The full performance schedule is as follows:Wednesday, April 27 at 7:30 pm; Friday, April 29 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, April 30 at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm; Sunday, May 1 at 2:00 pm; Thursday, May 5 at 7:30 pm; Friday, May 6 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, May 7 at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm; and Sunday, May 8 at 2:00 pm.

Single tickets, priced from $35 to $199, are available for purchase at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street, or online at

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