Dallas Musical Moves to Broadway

2009 show "Give It Up!" transfers to Broadway as "Lysistrata Jones"

give it up (3)
Dallas Theater Center

When Dallas Theater Center's Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty heard that "Give It Up!" would be transferring to Broadway, his excitement was uncontainable.

"I was thrilled. I think screaming and jumping up and down was part of that reaction," he laughs.

But it took several years and numerous people to make it happen.

Moriarty first received a phone call and a package in the mail from friend and future director, Dan Knechtges. In it, a basic script and a recorded version of the songs sung by the show's composer. Even in its most basic stage, Moriarty fell in love -- which was great news for Knechtges who was trying to find a theater that would produce the pop comedy musical shedding new light on a classic play.

"Give It Up!" puts a spin on Aristophanes' classic ancient Greek tragedy "Lysistrata" in which a group of women protest the Peloponnesian War by refusing to have sexual relations with their husbands. In "Give It Up!" the women are re-imagined as cheerleaders with their collegiate boyfriends taking the place of the combatants in the war. But instead of trying to win the war, the Athens University basketball team tries to hold on to a 30-year losing streak.

While the creators were looking for a home for the show, Moriarty had other plans in mind. Not only did he think the show would be perfect for a Dallas audience, he was also looking to add local talent, and he had a special person in mind for the role of Hetaira: Liz Mikel.

Described as a woman who has traveled from ancient Greece to narrate the modern musical, Hetaira is a full-figured woman with an even bigger personality. After convincing the New York team to grant her an audition, they had found their Hetaira.

"They were like, 'Oh my God! She's perfect for the show!'" Moriarty recalls.

With that, Mikel, fellow cast members, and the staff packed their bags and headed to Dallas to begin the rehearsal process, but it wasn't smooth sailing.

With a week before previews and two weeks before opening night, Liz Mikel woke to her daughter explaining their house was on fire. But in the theater business, the show must go on. "Give It Up!" did just that.

The production officially opened Friday, January 22, 2010 at the brand new Dee and Charles Wyly Theater, making it the first musical in the new facility. By the end of its two-month run, there were talks to take it to New York. Off-Broadway was the first stop in May 2011. And now, it's heading to the Great White Way.

Of all the changes the show has made since its Dallas development in 2009 -- including changing the name to "Lysistrata Jones" and replacing some actors -- Moriarty says that the show has remained relatively the same as on opening night in Dallas.

One actor who has been with the show since it's inception is Liz Mikel.

"There's no one like Liz Mikel. She's a star," Moriarty says. "Her personality is larger than life and her heart is even bigger than that."

What began as a regional piece is now making headlines and receiving praise on the Great White Way. Actress and singer, Vanessa Williams has already seen the show three times, noting that each time it gets better and better.

Although Moriarty can't quite say what the plans are for the show once it finishes its run on Broadway, he's thrilled that a Dallas production was able to rise to national prominence.

"I think, for a long time, Dallas has risen to a city of great national and international importance on the strength of the business and sports community... Now, we're also creating work that's having that kind of impact," Moriarty says.

"Lysistrata Jones" began previews on November 12 and opens December 14 on Broadway.

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