PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 1-7: Bryan Cranston Goes All The Way and Adele Dazeem Takes the Stage

By Robert Simonson
March 7, 2014

Bryan Cranston followed up his small-screen triumph as the everyday, all-American drug lord Walter White in "Breaking Bad" with a starring turn in playwright Robert Schenkkan's political drama All The Way, playing President Lyndon B. Johnson. The show officially opened on Broadway March 6 at the Neil Simon Theatre.



All The Way, directed by Bill Rauch, premiered in 2012 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and had an extended run at the American Repertory Theater last fall.

Most critics agree that Cranston went all the way with his Johnson turn, achieving a smashing Broadway debut and was, indeed, the main reason to see the play — though a number of reviewers had fine things to say about Rauch as well.

"Mr. Cranston strides onto the Broadway stage with an admirable confidence," wrote the Times, "meeting the challenge of animating Mr. Schenkkan's sprawling civics lesson as if he's thoroughly at home. Although Johnson is not the exclusive focus of the play — many passages focus on the strategizing among various black civil rights organizations — Mr. Cranston's heat-generating performance galvanizes the production. Even when Johnson is offstage or the writing sags with exposition, the show, directed solidly if a little stolidly by Bill Rauch, retains the vitalizing imprint of his performance."

"In Bryan Cranston's hands, [Johnson is] completely irascible — and one of the highlights of the Broadway season," opined the AP. "Cranston, fresh off his triumph as a drug kingpin in 'Breaking Bad,' shows what he can do in a Broadway debut, and it's astonishing... Watching Cranston bully, threaten, feel sorry for himself, compromise, bellow and turn the knife is a hoot, no matter which side of the aisle you sit... The other real star here is director Bill Rauch, who keeps this jigsaw puzzle humming along. There are countless scenes and a staggering number of parts, and the action spills out into the aisles. But moments melt into the next flawlessly, and the main actors pivot seamlessly, often not waiting for the actors in the last scene to leave."

"Bryan Cranston's ferociously human character study elevates and invigorates All the Way," offered The Hollywood Reporter, while Time Out New York said, "This being a political potboiler, there's plenty of rousing rhetoric, and Cranston imbues his inspiring speeches and profane rants with a larger-than-life intensity that leaps off the page. Even if the script sometimes lapses into History Channel expositional mode, its humor and passion never lag — and neither does Cranston."

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Lin-Manuel Miranda
Photo by Corey Hayes

Speaking of politicians, the Public Theater has found a place for Hamilton, the unlikely new musical by In the Heights star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, which explores the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. It will premiere as part of the Public's 2014-15 season.

Formerly titled Hamilton Mixtape, the new musical will star Miranda in the title role, under the direction of Thomas Kail. Performances are scheduled to begin Jan. 20, 2015, for a run through Feb. 22.

Inspired by the book "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow, the musical incorporates historial figures such as George Washington, Aaron Burr, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. The project first attracted attention when Miranda brought the house down performing a song from the score for President Obama and the First Family at the White House in 2009. A YouTube video of the event was widely viewed.

Hamilton may be one of the many Public projects that could have a commercial future. The Public engagement is supported by producers Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs and Jill Furman, all of whom helped usher Miranda's In the Heights to Broadway in 2008.

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It's that time of year when nonprofits begin to announce their coming season line-ups.

Classic Stage Company has two intriguing offerings in the wings. It will produce a revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein seldom-seen musical Allegro (one of the duo's few flops), helmed by John Doyle. Also on tap is a Hamlet starring Peter Sarsgaard. A director has not been announced for the latter production.

Finally, "Sex and the City"'s Mr. Big himself, Chris Noth, will star as Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus — another guy who thought he was Mr. Big for a while.

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Idina Menzel
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Sure, Idina Menzel starred in the original production of Rent, won a Tony Award for Wicked, acted on the hit show "Glee," and provided the voice of Elsa in the smash animated film "Frozen." But, let's be honest: She was never truly famous until John Travolta botched her name at the 2014 Academy Awards ceremony March 2.

Menzel was at the broadcast to sing "Let It Go," the Oscar-nominated song from "Frozen." Travolta, there to introduce her, seemed to be having some trouble with his tongue, or the teleprompter, or something. For, in his pronunciation, "Idina Menzel" came out as "Adele Dazeem." (Most of the same letters, just not in the right order.)

Travolta's flub soon went viral, burning up Twitter and other avenues of social media. Late night comedians made hay of the mistake. ("I'm Conan O'Brien, or, as John Travolta calls me, Kevin Ozeem.") Slate posted a handy article in which you could "Travoltify" your name by typing it into a box and clicking. It has since become the most read "article" in Slate history. (For the record, my Travoltified named is, ahem, Rosie Suzzivan.)

The producers of If/Then, the new musical starring Menzel, showed they had a sense of humor by published a faux Playbill biography insert for Adele Dazeem, who was set to step in for Menzel. The purposely mangled notice said that Dazeem's previous Broadway credits include the musicals "Nert" (i.e. "Rent") and "Wicked-ly" (i.e. "Wicked") and the hit Disney movie "Farfignugen" (i.e. "Frozen").

Bright side: No one will ever pronounce Idina Menzel's name incorrectly again.