Broadway Stars Ben Cook and Gaby Diaz’s Relationship Timeline

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The love story at the center of Broadway’s Illinoise has tugged at fans’ heartstrings, and a real-life couple is partially responsible for the show’s magic.

Ben Cook and Gaby Diaz play Carl and Shelby, respectively, in the new musical, which earned four Tony Award nominations following its April 2024 debut. Choreographed and directed by Justin Peck — a New York City Ballet prodigy and previous Tony winner more widely known for choreographing Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story film — Illinoise uses dance to tell a story of love, loss and new beginnings. (The show uses music from Sufjan Stevens’ beloved album Illinois performed by vocalists and a band on an elevated platform above the cast of dancer-actors.)

Not only did Cook and Diaz have an existing connection when work began on Illinoise, they each worked with Peck in the past, as did many of their costars. Illinoise also stars Ricky Ubeda as Henry, the focal point of the love triangle with Carl and Shelby, with Ahmad Simmons, Jeanette Delgado, Rachel Lockhart, Byron Tittle and more dancers each bringing life to Stevens’ music on stage.

“There’s such a rich emotional history that we all share: Gaby is my girlfriend in real life — we live together — and Ricky, Ahmad and I have worked together many times,” Cook told Broadway.com in a joint interview with Ubeda in June 2024. “All of that plays a role in our ability to connect with one another and share that with an audience.”

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Working with Diaz and their friends on a show that’s reimagined what Broadway can be has felt like a dream come true. “This experience is going to spoil us for any work we do in the future,” Cook added. “The standard has been set, and if it’s a different version of this for the next 10 years, we’ll be lucky.”

Illinoise marks Diaz’s Broadway debut — fans might recognize her for winning So You Think You Can Dance season 12 — but Cook has been around the block on the Great White Way. He’s starred in Ragtime, Billy Elliot, Newsies, Mean Girls and more.

Scroll down for a glimpse at Cook and Diaz’s relationship off stage:

2019

Both Cook and Diaz were cast in Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story. He was part of the Jets, while she was a Shark.

2020

Broadway Stars Ben Cook and Gaby Diaz Relationship Timeline
Courtesy of Ben Cook/Instagram

The couple spent plenty of time together during the COVID shutdown, often sharing glimpses of park outings, hikes and more.

2021

When West Side Story premiered after pandemic-related delays, Cook and Diaz each celebrated the milestone moment. Diaz wrote via Instagram, “This experience changed my life,” while Cook gushed in a post of his own, “I’m so excited for everyone to see what our motley crew cooked up.”

2022

Broadway Stars Ben Cook and Gaby Diaz Relationship Timeline
Courtesy of Gaby Diaz/Instagram

Cook and Diaz shared pics from getaways to Los Angeles and London, as well as their favorite moments with their dog in NYC. Diaz shared a sweet tribute to her partner in December, writing via Instagram, “Happy birthday to you, sweet thing. 💛.”

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2023

The couple’s onstage collaboration began with a regional run of Illinoise (initially titled Illinois) at Bard College’s Fisher Center in the Hudson Valley. “What a magical moment in time. 🌼,” Diaz captioned an Instagram post that summer.

2024

Broadway Stars Ben Cook and Gaby Diaz Relationship Timeline
Courtesy of Ben Cook/Instagram

Following its staging at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Illinoise made its way to NYC, opening at the Park Avenue Armory before its transfer to Broadway. The production earned four Tony Award nominations and celebrated its premiere with a gala performance in May.

“This whole thing has been two years in the making, and I got to make it with some of my best friends [and] my partner, my girlfriend,” Cook gushed in an interview from the gala, gesturing to Diaz. “I’m over the moon.”

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