The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) has done it again. After its Tony-award winning production of Pippin and sending shows like The Glass Menagerie to Broadway, the A.R.T. is wowing audiences with its newest show, All the Way.
Starring Bryan Cranston (of Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad fame) as President Lyndon Baines Johnson, All the Way is utterly captivating. From the first scene to the last, the top-notch actors, innovative set and compelling story keep your attention completely riveted to the stage.
Portraying a well-known historial figure is no easy feat for even the best actors, but the cast of All the Way plays their roles perfectly. From Cranston’s incredible transformation into LBJ and Brandon J. Dirden (The Piano Lesson) as Martin Luther King Jr. to Michael McKean (A Mighty Wind) as J. Edgar Hoover and Reed Birney (House of Cards) as Hubert Humphrey, I found myself forgetting that they were actors and not the real deal.
The play begins on the airplane back to Washington, D.C., after President John F. Kennedy has been shot and LBJ has been sworn in to lead the country. It follows his journey during the next year to pass the Civil Rights Bill and get elected to the presidency in 1964. With the country deeply divided confronting many difficult issues today, the subjects of All the Way seemed especially timely and relevant.
Every show I’ve seen at the A.R.T. has had a magical set. Whether it’s simple and mostly unchanging, as in Woody Sez, or a bit whimsical as in The Glass Menagerie, or complex and vivid, as in Pippin, no detail is left to chance. The same is true in All the Way, with the set and costumes truly capturing the mood and feel of 1960s America.
The theater was packed when I saw All the Way on its second night in production and I imagine each show will be filled to the brim with political junkies, Cranston fans and theater lovers. In fact, it appears that All the Way is sold out during its run through October 12, though some standing room tickets are available. I recommend trying to pick some up so you too can enjoy this fantastic show. And if you can’t see All the Way, the A.R.T. has a terrific line-up of performances coming in the 2013-2014 season.
Image courtesy of the American Repertory Theater.