Imagine if you had eleven months to be president. What would you do? Would you seize the opportunity and make sweeping changes or lay back in the hopes of nabbing another four years?
That’s the problem Lyndon B. Johnson faced when he was thrust into the presidency in the wake of JFK’s assassination. All the Way, a Tony award winning play opening at Zach Theatre on April 16, 2015, examines LBJ’s early career with a dynamite cast and spot on direction. A definite must-see.
Rocky First Year
All The Way is the story of LBJ’s first eleven months in the Oval Office. If following in the tragic footsteps of the most popular president since Roosevelt isn’t enough, the Texas Hill Country native finds himself at the helm of a country ready to tear itself apart.
Throughout the play, we watch LBJ argue civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr., fight for a second term and keep his party together. While the story is heavy on the politics, some of which gets muddled in the web of a huge ensemble cast, the themes stay true. It’s often tough to do what’s right, especially when you need to do what’s wrong.
Primarily a character study, the performances do justice to the already excellent script. In the role of LBJ, Steve Vinovich shines as the prickly Hill Country native. Despite his loud, crass behavior, Vinovich injects the character with equal parts wit and empathy. In particular, his soliloquies are both heart breaking and hilarious.
Yes, you read that right. Vinovich is uproariously funny. A Texan through and through, the script gives LBJ plenty of chances to get all Lone Star state with various senators, judges and politicians.
The supporting cast is also exceptional. Stand outs include Michel Miller as Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s jittery yet good natured right hand man, and Melvin Abston’s incredible portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The cast members, most of whom play multiple characters, give the production life and energy.
More Than Big Personalities
With its backbone firmly nestled in American history, you may be nervous the production is more a high school filmstrip than entertaining drama. In two words, don’t worry. Thanks to a dynamite script and deft direction, All The Way brims with energy and charisma.
There are also deep themes running throughout the play. LBJ’s underlying story is one of constant struggle. Does he follow his heart and support civil rights, or tow the party line? The answers are never cut and dry. There are also undercurrents of obsession and anger in LBJ’s personality. It’s a complex but fascinating setup.
Well Worth Going All the Way
Tossed into a maelstrom of political upheaval, LBJ had a brutal first year of presidential reign. In All The Way, we get a funny, irreverent and deeply human look into the perils of running a country in the shadow of a great leader.
Full of excellent acting, spot on wit and personality to spare, this 2014 Tony winner for “Best Play” is done justice by the Zach Theatre company. Feel free to go the distance with All The Way.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
What productions are you looking forward to seeing at Zach Theatre this season?
All images courtesy of ZACH Theatre and Kirk Tuck.