In 2014 the Broadway production of All the Way gave theatergoers in New York City the opportunity to delve into a unique moment in American history. This play opened the doors to the Oval Office, giving audiences a glimpse into Lyndon B. Johnson’s early presidency and accomplishments as commander in chief. Though the Broadway production of All the Way ran for a limited time, it garnered both critical acclaim and theater awards.
From the plot to the cast, read on to explore everything to know about Broadway’s All the Way:
All the Way is an original play from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan. With a name that takes inspiration from Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 campaign slogan “All the Way with LBJ,” the play follows the vice president-turned-president as he assumes the office in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963.
The play itself opens soon after the assassination of Kennedy, as Air Force One makes its journey from Dallas, Texas, to Washington, DC. The first act of All the Way highlights Johnson’s fight to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a legislation dear to both him and Kennedy. Played on a set made to emulate a coliseum-like congressional chamber, the action follows Johnson as he does battle with both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives and, later, the Senate. Along the way, he resorts to such wide-ranging methods as blackmail and flattery to garner congressional support for the bill.
Johnson meets his biggest hurdle when facing the Southern congressmen, the strongest opponents of the Civil Rights Act. All the Way also spends much of its run time highlighting Martin Luther King Jr. and his work with the black civil rights groups that are developing strategies of their own to ensure the bill goes through. The first act closes with the passing of the Civil Rights Act in the Senate, a moment of great triumph for Johnson.
The second act opens at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, where the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) is confronting the state’s segregated delegation. Johnson struggles to determine how to appease both the majority of the party’s voters and its more progressive members. All the Way closes in the month leading up to the presidential election of 1964, with Johnson and opponent Barry Goldwater tied for the win.
All the Way may have made its biggest mark while on Broadway, but its original production took place more than 2,000 miles away. In 2012 the Oregon Shakespeare Festival commissioned the play from Schenkkan for its decade-long “American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle” series. Director Bill Rauch headed the production, which starred Jack Willis and ran from July 25 to November 3 of that year.
The next year, All the Way moved to the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with Bryan Cranston taking over the role of Johnson. In 2014 the production made it to Broadway, where it had its limited run at the Neil Simon Theatre. After 27 previews that commenced on February 10, the All the Way production team went on to hold 131 performances before closing its run on June 29, 2014.
The Broadway production of All the Way began with an initial investment of $3.9 million. With eight performances held every week, the show recouped this investment just shy of four months into its run. All the Way saw its highest weekly gross the week that ended on February 16, with more than $770,000 in profits. For its final week on Broadway, the show drew over 11,400 audience members and took in a staggering $1.6 million, bringing it to a total gross of nearly $19.5 million.
The Cast and Creatives
The team behind the 2014 production of All the Way included Broadway veterans and rookies alike. The show was director Bill Rauch’s first stint on Broadway, after serving as artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the previous seven years. Star Bryan Cranston also made his Broadway debut in All the Way, which took place shortly after he finished filming the acclaimed series Breaking Bad. The rest of the cast included such experienced stage actors as Robert Petkoff in the role of Hubert Humphrey and Betsy Aidem as Lady Bird Johnson and Katharine Graham.
All the Way’s lead producers were Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, and Louise Gund. Longtime producing partners Richards and Frankel have been bringing shows to the Broadway stage for nearly two decades. All the Way marked the first Broadway production for producer Louise Gund.
The 2014 Broadway production of All the Way elicited praise from critics, most of whom gave special mention to Cranston for his stellar performance. That year, the show also received a number of award nominations and wins.
All the Way earned nominations in five categories at the 2014 Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Director of a Play and Outstanding Projection Design. Ultimately, the show took home the awards for Outstanding Actor in a Play and Outstanding Play. Cranston’s depiction of Johnson also earned him an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Theatre World Award, and a Best Actor Tony Award. Schenkkan took home awards for his writing, securing Best American Play from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards and the Tony for Best Play. Richards, Frankel, and Gund each took home a Tony for Best Play for All the Way.