Review: All the Way starring Bryan Cranston

Cursor_and_All_The_Way_Broadway

I rarely do reviews of any type on this blog, and rarer still (perhaps never?), review Broadway plays (although, here’s one for an off-broadway show from 10 years ago). However, I wanted to get on the record that the limited run (scheduled to close at the end of June) of the drama All the Way, starring Bryan Cranston, is a great show to see, if: (1) You’ve become a big fan of Bryan Cranston via Breaking Bad and would like to see him do something that, while impressive and intense, is totally devoid of any hint of Walter White. (2) Are a hopeless political-history wonk who regrets not being able to see Ralph Bellamy play FDR or Frank Langella as Nixon. (While he’s great, Cranston is no Bellamy or Langella, sorry to say.) Or, (3) wonder if there was ever a real President who wielded DC power like that portrayed by Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood (House of Cards).

The play is closer in plot structure and focus, even subject, to the film Lincoln than the Broadway bio-plays that made it to the films that I linked to above: Sunrise at Campobello or Frost/Nixon. The focus is the back-story drama that led up to enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on July 2 of that year. Whether it is great acting, staging or writing, I’ll leave up to the pros. I will only say it is, for those who enjoy such things, three-hours of world-class Washington wonkishness.

While Cranston’s accent will, at times, grate on the ears of Southerners, especially Texans, in the audience, his portrayal of LBJ is impressive. Despite being his first Broadway show, he carries the lead with ease — or, not exactly ease perhaps, as he seems to be shouting at people most of the play.

(Sidenote: Writing this made me think of one of the more strangely-titled films I’ve ever seen that involves the power-plays of a U.S. President (in this film’s case, Andrew Jackson), The Gorgeous Hussy, starring Joan Crawford. If you can find a streaming source, it’s worth a look to see a 1936 House of Cards.)