“Alternately bullying and beguiling” is how All the Way describes its portrait of Lyndon Baines Johnson. So it’s not a stretch for the man who played Walter White to slip comfortably into the role of the 36th American president. For both characters, on all fronts, it’s a test of means versus ends.
Bryan Cranston, the Nation’s Finest Actor™, will portray this “Shakespearean figure of towering ambition and appetite” when the production officially begins Thursday night at the American Repertory Theater in Boston.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan wrote the script for All the Way, which chronicles LBJ’s first year in office as he navigates Civil Rights legislation at home and an escalating conflict in Vietnam.
“Sometimes he was friendly, sometimes he was vicious,” Cranston said of
Walter White LBJ, according to Playbill. “He would cajole, he would threaten, he would pressure, he would hug. He swung so wide on the spectrum of human emotions in order to accomplish what he felt needed to be done. It doesn’t take much time for an actor to look at that and go, ‘Wow, how wonderful and frightening to step in those shoes!’”
Previews of the show began at the ART last week.
The show will run from September 19 through October 12, and the entire run is sold out. Like several ART shows in recent memory — namely, The Glass Menagerie with Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto; the Tony Award-winning Pippin with Patina Miller and Matthew James Thomas — it’s likely that after the limited engagement, producers will move it to Broadway.
Here’s a look at the rest of the cast behind Cranston:
…the premiere cast includes Brandon J. Dirden (The Piano Lesson, Enron) as Martin Luther King Jr., Michael McKean (The Homecoming, Superior Donuts) as J. Edgar Hoover, Reed Birney (Picnic, Blasted) as Hubert Humphrey, Dakin Matthews (Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, “Lincoln”) as Richard Russell, Arnie Burton (Peter and The Starcatcher) as Robert McNamara, Crystal Dickinson (Clybourne Park) as Coretta Scott King, Betsy Aidem (Nikolai and the Others) as Lady Bird Johnson, Eric Lenox Abrams (The Piano Lesson) as Bob Moses, Peter Jay Fernandez (Cyrano de Bergerac) as Roy Wilkins, Susannah Schulman (Distracted) as Lurleen Wallace, William Jackson Harper (Titus Andronicus) as Stokely Carmichael, Christopher Liam Moore (All The Way) as Walter Jenkins and Ethan Phillips (November) as Stanley Levison.
Michael McKean as J. Edgar Hoover is both a terrific casting decision and an unintentional wink for everyone who has seen the movie Clue.
(Semi-apologies for the over-pixelation of these two photos from the @AmericanRep Instagram account, but they were posted this grainy.)
Cranston’s working hard in Boston. He’s only tweeted twice since the premiere of the final season of Breaking Bad, this one last week:
Apologize for being out of touch.This play is kickin my ass but we're sold out for the whole run. Sorry x 2. How you likin' BB this season?!
— Bryan Cranston (@BryanCranston) September 11, 2013
Oh, the one right before that? YUP, BRYAN CRANSTON LOVES HYPERVOCAL.
One more laugh before the tears. A BB mash-up. Walter White sings "My Way". Think: Shatner doing "Rocket Man". Enjoy. http://t.co/wvdBmuw1QV
— Bryan Cranston (@BryanCranston) August 11, 2013