The Emmy-winning actor is ditching the meth-stained sands of Albuquerque for the bright lights of Broadway. And he's cleaning up his act big time.
Shedding his drug-dealing, gun-slinging Walter White persona, Cranston will take on the role of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the play "All the Way," when it transfers to Broadway this spring. He's already inhabited the part this fall in the show's limited run at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which ends this Saturday. The exact date and theater have been announced yet for the Broadway transfer.
Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan ("The Kentucky Cycle," who also starred in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" ... and who happens to be the uncle of "Southland" actor Ben McKenzie) wrote the three-hour-plus play that begins with JFK's assassination in 1963 and traces the first year of LBJ's presidency, including his work in helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It's not a one-man show though — other characters that pop up in the play include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., J. Edgar Hoover, Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace. Bill Rauch will again direct.
Schenkkan announced the news himself on Twitter:
#ALLTHEWAY is GOING TO BROADWAY!— ROBERT SCHENKKAN (@ROBERTSCHENKKAN) October 5, 2013
"It’s an exciting new American play that deals with LBJ's quest for legitimacy," producer Jeffrey Richards told media on Sunday about the show. "It deals with a year in American history that was a tumultuous year and an exciting year. The writer has brought it to life vividly." As for Cranston's depiction of our nation's 36th President, he says the role is "transformative."
It's an ambitious move for Cranston, whose most notable work has been on TV in "Breaking Bad" and "Malcolm in the Middle," as well as film, including "Argo" and "Drive." (His upcoming film slate includes next year's big-budget "Godzilla" remake.)
Cranston does, however, have extensive theater experience, but this role will mark his Broadway debut. (Could he be adding a Tony Award to his collection of statuettes?)
And he's not the only superstar actor to head to Broadway this season. This fall, Daniel Craig stars alongside his Academy Award-winning wife, Rachel Weisz, in Harold Pinter's "Betrayal." Zachary Quinto follows up his summer blockbuster "Star Trek Into Darkness" by doing Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie." Ethan Hawke will star in "Macbeth." "X-Men" rivals Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart take on Pinter and Beckett in a respective double bill of "No Man's Land" and "Waiting for Godot." And Billy Crystal revives his one-man show, "700 Sundays."
Joining Cranston this spring, Debra Messing joins the cast of John Patrick Shanley's "Outside Mullingar," Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch take on Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys," Hugh Jackman returns in Stephen Schwartz's ("Wicked," "Pippin") "Houdini," Michelle Williams makes her Broadway debut in "Cabaret," Neil Patrick Harris revives "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," Denzel Washington will lead a revival of "A Raisin in the Sun," and Zach Braff tries bringing Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway" … to Broadway.
As for Cranston's "All the Way," it has been getting good notices during its try-out run. The New York Times raves that the star "cuts a vigorous, imposing figure as LBJ. … Mr. Cranston’s Johnson glitters with an almost salacious ruthlessness," while the Boston Globe says, "Cranston delivers Johnson's outsize presence, his cackling humor and sudden rages, his canny maneuvering and his self-pity." But, noting his trouble with LBJ's Texan accent and famous physical presence, Entertainment Weekly does say that "as good as Cranston is as Johnson, and he is very good indeed, the Emmy-winning actor could benefit from more time to hone his portrait."
Cranston should have plenty of time to get his twang in good shape by the time the curtain goes up early next year.
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