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It’s Official: Bryan Cranston Will Make His Broadway Debut In LBJ Play

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Slade Sohmer

By Slade Sohmer on October 7, 2013

Like Corky St. Clair’s sesquicentennial-celebrating “Red White and Blaine,” the LBJ-themed “All the Way” starring World’s Best Actor™ Bryan Cranston had a pretty good shot of heading to Broadway.

The American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been a solid breeding ground for future Broadway shows: the Tony Award-winning “Pippin” and the revival of “The Glass Menagerie” both kicked off at the ART of late. And now it’s official: Cranston will be taking his current stage role as President Lyndon Johnson to New York City.

via Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

via Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

The Los Angeles Times has more on Cranston’s debut:

The production would mark Cranston’s first time performing on Broadway. The Los Angeles native got his early start on the stage in regional theater in Southern California. In 1987, he received some strong notices for the play “The Steven Weed Show” at Theater/Theater in Hollywood.
Cranston returned to the stage in 2006 in a Geffen Playhouse production of Sam Shepard’s “The God of Hell,” which was directed by Jason Alexander.

New York Times‘ theater critic Charles Isherwood gave the play, as a whole, a tepid review, though his review of Cranston’s performance was positive: “To immediately address the question of Mr. Cranston’s own authority: yes, onstage he cuts a vigorous, imposing figure as L.B.J., employing a drawl as wide as the Rio Grande as the new president backslaps and backstabs his way through the rough waters of a Washington that, in its deep divisions, bears a depressing resemblance to our own.”


“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.

via Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

via Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

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.

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“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.)

via Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

via Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

via Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

via Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

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:

Oh, the one right before that? YUP, BRYAN CRANSTON LOVES HYPERVOCAL.

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