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Dallas actor Liz Mikel heads to Broadway for a revival of the musical '1776'

Dallas Theater Center company actor Liz Mikel
Dallas Theater Center
Dallas Theater Center company actor Liz Mikel

Liz Mikel has been acting for 30 years at the Dallas Theater Center. But this fall, the North Texas actor-singer will be at the Roundabout Theater in New York performing in 1776 — the first Broadway revival of the 1969 Tony Award-winning musical in 25 years.

Mikel will play John Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, which struggled to draft the Declaration of Independence during a hot summer in Philadelphia. This revival is staged by Diane Paulus, the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater. She's known for her revisionary classics (The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess) and technically advanced, even challenging productions (Death and the Powers, aka "the robot opera").

Mikel joins a cast that's racially-diverse and either female, trans or non-binary. The Founding Fathers in this show will not be portrayed by straight white males.

This will change the emotional and historical resonance of the musical.1776 presents the story of how America was created by a group of white men -- partly through a compromise to retain slavery.

"The words coming out of our mouths land differently on the ears of the audience," Mikel said of the non-traditional casting, "because - we are America."

Liz Mikel (left) playing opposite Kieran Connolly in the Dallas Theater Center's 2017 revival of "Inherit the Wind."
Karen Almond
Dallas Theater Center
Liz Mikel (left) playing opposite Kieran Connolly in the Dallas Theater Center's 2017 revival of "Inherit the Wind."

This is hardly the first time Mikel has been cast in a role conventionally played by a white male. She can be seen playing the stage manager in the Dallas Theater Center's current, bilingual revival ofOur Town. Five years ago, Mikel portrayed evangelist and former presidential candidate Mathew Harrison Brady in the Theater Center's revival of Inherit the Wind.

This will not be Mikel's first trip to Broadway, either. In 2011, she starred in Lysistrata Jones, which began at the Dallas Theater Center as Give It Up! The musical was successful off-Broadway but ran for only two months after transferring to Broadway.

Mikel may be best known nationally for her recurring role in the TV series, Friday Night Lights. But she said director Paulus knew of her stage work because of Mikel's friendship with playwright-activistEve Ensler, best known for her play, The Vagina Monologues. Ensler is now known by the initial V. Mikel appeared in a 10th anniversary production of The Vagina Monologues in New Orleans in 2008 — subbing in for Oprah Winfrey — and V cast her in several, more recent plays, one of which Paulus saw.

This revival of 1776 was originally planned for the 2020 season and went into a workshop in 2019 and another on Zoom in 2020 — before COVID shut things down. Now it's set to open at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in May before moving to Broadway in September.

The national tour that's already been scheduled will come to Houston — but not Dallas

Jerome Weeks is the Art&Seek producer-reporter for KERA. A professional critic for more than two decades, he was the book columnist for The Dallas Morning News for ten years and the paper’s theater critic for ten years before that. His writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, American Theatre and Men’s Vogue magazines.