Bryan Cranston in the role of LBJ in All the Way portrays a president who considered himself an altruist but was a man who stopped at nothing to achieve success –extortion, threats, telephone taps. LBJ, like Walter White in Breaking Bad, may have had good intentions but their methods leave you uneasy.
All the Way is a long play. But this was a momentous time and much happened between the time of the Kennedy assassination in November 1963 and the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. The story is told through episodes of LBJ’s interactions with the Congress, Martin Luther King, J.Edgar Hoover, Lady Bird Johnson and others and takes us forward in time up until Johnson’s bid for re-election. At times I felt like I was living through these eleven months in real-time especially because the seats at the Neil Simon Theater are so tight. Eleven months condensed into just under three hours.
Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B. Johnson gives an outstanding performance. The impressive supporting cast is huge and they move in and out of multiple roles seamlessly. Cranston shows us an LBJ who was a masterful manipulator –otherwise known as politician. He was crass with a foul mouth. There are moments where he seems to morph into the real man. Near the end of the play, he addresses the audience as LBJ and asks if his methods made us feel squeamish. Someone in the audience shouted YES. He looked at them and slowly nodded his head.
Although All the Way is interesting and well done I’m not sure if it could be a box office success if not for the lure of seeing a star of the magnitude of Bryan Cranston. I saw the play the second night of previews and the house was sold out. Broadway is using star power to attract an audience. This is good for the financial health of Broadway and it’s good because it’s attracting people who might not ordinarily choose to see a drama, let alone one about LBJ. Win-win. LAR
Discount tickets are available.