The Joffrey Ballet Presents Two Premieres-The Word Premiere of “Mice and Men”, the Joffrey Premiere of “Serenade”

Joffrey Ballet Chicago’s “Of Mice and Men” featuring dancers Xavier Núñez and Dylan Gutierrez © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2021
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CATHY MARSTON’S OF MICE AND MEN, plus the Joffrey premiere of George Balanchine’s Serenade, at the Lyric Opera House.

Joffrey Ballet Chicago’s “Of Mice and Men” featuring dancers Xavier Núñez and Dylan Gutierrez © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2021

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, which 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. 

Joffrey Ballet Chicago’s “Of Mice and Men” featuring dancers Xavier Núñez and Dylan Gutierrez © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2021

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. 

Joffrey Ballet Chicago’s “Of Mice and Men” featuring dancers Xavier Núñez and Dylan Gutierrez © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2021

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

Joffrey Ballet Chicago’s “Of Mice and Men” featuring dancers Xavier Núñez and Dylan Gutierrez © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2021

About The Joffrey Ballet

The Joffrey Ballet is one of the premier dance companies in the world today, with a reputation for boundary-breaking performances for more than 60 years. The Joffrey repertoire is an extensive collection of all-time classics, modern masterpieces, and original works. 

Founded in 1956 by pioneers Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey remains dedicated to artistic expression, innovation, and first-rate education and engagement programming. The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE and President and CEO Greg Cameron.

Thanks to Serenade Production Sponsors Patti Selander Eylar and Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, and all of the Of Mice and Men Commissioning Sponsors: Producing Sponsors Denise Littlefield Sobel and Anne L. Kaplan, Major Sponsors Courtney Shea, The Rudolf Nureyev Fund at The Joffrey Ballet, Greg Jenkins, Northern Trust, and Prince Charitable Trusts, and Sponsors Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, Northrop at The University of Minnesota, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Of Mice and Men was created with funds from the Prince Prize for Commissioning Original Work, which was awarded to Cathy Marston and The Joffrey Ballet in 2019. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation.

The Joffrey Ballet is grateful for the support of its 2021–2022 Season Sponsors: Abbott Fund, Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation, The Florian Fund, Nancy and Sanfred Koltun, and Live Music Sponsors Sandy and Roger Deromedi, Sage Foundation, and The Marina and Arnold Tatar Fund for Live Music. The Joffrey also acknowledges Season Partners Chicago Athletic Clubs, and Athletico Physical Therapy, official provider of physical therapy for The Joffrey Ballet.

For more information on The Joffrey Ballet and its programs, visit Connect with the Joffrey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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