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NY1 Theater Review: 'All The Way'

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Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad" fame is making his Broadway debut as LBJ in a new play called "All the Way." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

Bryan Cranston is the big draw in "All The Way," a biographical drama about President Lyndon B. Johnson. And while the "Breaking Bad" star actually exceeds the hype, the best news is that the play does, too.

With 20 actors in dozens of roles, this is high drama spanning the year between the Kennedy assassination and the '64 election. The main focus is the intense fight to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As staged, the legislation is treated with the gravity of our nation's founding and the suspense of a first class thriller, and despite knowing the ending, we're on the edge of our seats.

Using transcripts from the time, Robert Schenkkan crafted a magnificent work. His vast cast of characters includes major figures, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Hubert Humphrey and J. Edgar Hoover. It's a tangle of threads expertly woven into a fascinating tapestry detailing a game-changing chapter in our history. At the center of it all is the accidental president, as he called himself, Lyndon Baines Johnson, a master politician in the challenge of his life.

Bill Rauch directs with the seamless flow of a movie. But this is a theatrical coup, combining versatile design elements, bravura performances and nonstop action with such finesse and clarity, the three-hour running time felt like minutes.

Everyone shines in this company. Brandon J. Dirden as King nails both the civil rights leader's cadence and charisma. But Cranston deserves the highest praise in his Broadway debut. He not only embodies LBJ's look and mannerisms, he captures the myriad nuances - the crude speech, the bullying, the insecurity and most of all, the Texan's blood lust for politics. It's a brilliant portrayal no less epic than the great tragedies of classic literature.

Fifty years have passed, yet it's strikingly clear how history so often repeats itself. And as presented in "All The Way," it's never felt so exhilarating.

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