Review Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Presentation of Tony Award-winning Political Masterpiece ALL THE WAY

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Review By: Andrea Mastrocinque-Martone

January 8, 2016

“Wows for All the Way”

From LBJ’s 1964 presidential campaign slogan – the birth of the civil rights bill

Lyndon Baines Johnson was perhaps one of the most “complicated men to occupy the presidency,” according to worldwide media and politicians. And Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan succeeds in proving so in his poignant Tony Award-winning play “All the Way” that opened on Friday, January 8 at the Asolo Repertory Theater.

Actor Nick Wyman plays a stellar role as a Shakespearean figure of towering ambition and appetite, and his charismatic performance succeeds in depicting a conflicted Texan who hurls himself into Civil Rights legislation, throwing the country into turmoil by aggressively forwarding legislation that President Kennedy had proposed before his death—the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

LBJ’s passion for civil rights stemmed from his early elementary school career when he taught in a tiny Texas town and had deep compassion for the Mexican children he taught with whom were targets of bigotry and hate in his southern home. He vowed to change that by rising up the ranks in politics to make a difference.

The play is lengthy, but the intensity of the theme and superb performance of the cast in “All the Way” keeps the audience focused and engaged throughout as the play chronicles the story of LBJ’s first hundred-or-so days in office after the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

A towering 6 foot six Harvard graduate from Maine, Nick Wyman has played many stage and screen roles in Broadway productions of A Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables, and The Phantom of the Opera. Before achieving fame, while attending Harvard University, he made his first appearance on Broadway in the 1981 revival of My Fair Lady, “Les Miserables.” In one of his most visible roles, he played a terrorist in 1995’s “Die Hard: With a Vengeance,” with Bruce Willis. On television, fans of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire may remember him as Dr. Landau.

Wyman has magically morphed himself into LBJ on the stage, not only in looks, robust and powerful voice and body language, but in personality, style and exploding monologues in which LBJ was known to do in Congress. The audience both loves him and hates him at the same time, accepting his ruthless, “dark side” that he himself admits on stage that he had to embrace to get into the oval office.

As powerful and engaging as the first act, the second act clearly evokes the most audience emotion as NAACP rallies emerge from the rear of the Asolo, enveloping the audience and pulling them into the drama as though they were in the south at this tumultuous period in history in real time.

Performances by David Breitbarth as Governor George Wallace was superb and realistic, as were the portrayals of Lady Bird Johnson (Denise Cormier) and A.K Murtadha as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

Sit back in your seat and take a step back into one of the most historical time in U.S. history, and savor the creative genius of this group of actors who perform their finest. If you miss this live performance, the screen performance adaptation of “All the Way’ will premiere in the Spring and produced by Steven Spielberg.

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Tony Award-winning Political Masterpiece ALL THE WAY Launches Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Winter Repertory Season

“A sure-fire, action packed hit.” — The Huffington Post

(SARASOTA, December 3, 2015) — Asolo Repertory Theatre proudly kicks off its winter repertory season with the 2014 Tony Award® winner for Best Play, Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan’s political drama ALL THE WAY. Asolo Rep’s production will be directed by Emily Sophia Knapp, who served as the associate director of the Broadway, American Repertory Theatre, Seattle Rep and world premiere Oregon Shakespeare Festival productions. Hailed by NPR as a “sensational night of theatre,” previews for ALL THE WAY are January 6 and 7 at 8pm, opening night is January 8 at 8pm, and the production runs in rotating rep through April 9.

1963. An assassin’s bullet catapults Lyndon Baines Johnson into the presidency. As Air Force One lands in Washington, D.C. just hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a frightened nation looks desperately to “accidental” President Lyndon Baines Johnson for answers, hope and strength. And so begins Robert Schenkkan’s gripping look at the first chapter of LBJ’s presidency, from his indomitable determination to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, his wavering views of American’s future in Vietnam, and his drive to erase “accidental” from his legacy and win the 1964 presidential election.

ALL THE WAY takes place in 1964; in that year, lives, movements and political parties were torn apart in an effort to write the civil rights movement into the books of law,” said Director Emily Sophia Knapp. “Fifty years later, I am continually astounded at how directly these events speak to our current moment. Asolo Rep’s production will occur on the eve of a presidential election and in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement. I cannot think of a better time to dive back into a period when, with extraordinary sacrifice, major political change was possible.”

Broadway veteran Nick Wyman leads Asolo Rep’s talented cast as the iconic LBJ, returning to Asolo Rep after portraying John Barsad in the theatre’s pre-Broadway production of A Tale of Two Cities. Mr. Wyman’s other Broadway credits include Catch Me If You Can, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, and more. On television, he has appeared on VEEP, Boardwalk Empire, and more. Sarasota favorites including 20-year Asolo Rep artist David Breitbarth (Asolo Rep’s 2014-15 productions of The Matchmaker, Both Your Houses and Our Betters), Tyla Abercrumbie (Asolo Rep’s 2014-15 productions of Good People and The Matchmaker), and Denise Cormier (Asolo Rep’s 2014-15 productions of Good People and Our Betters) star as Governor George Wallace, Coretta Scott King and Lady Bird Johnson, respectively. Chicago actor William Dick portrays one of LBJ’s greatest opponents J. Edgar Hoover. L.A.-based actor

A.K. Murtadha, who was most recently seen in Ensemble Theatre Company’s Intimate Apparel, plays the visionary Martin Luther King, Jr.

Commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as part of its 10-year American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle, ALL THE WAY premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2012 and was directed by the theatre’s acclaimed Artistic Director Bill Rauch, who also directed the subsequent Seattle Rep, American Repertory Theatre and Broadway productions. Asolo Rep’s production will be based on the original Bill Rauch production. ALL THE WAY opened on Broadway in March 2014 with Emmy Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as LBJ. He received a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his electric portrayal. Cranston will reprise his role in the highly anticipated HBO film adaptation of ALL THE WAY, scheduled to air in 2016.

This engrossing political drama is the second production of the fourth season of Asolo Rep’s American Character Project, a captivating examination of this country’s past, present and future through contemporary and classic works, and provocative new musical theatre experiences.

This critically acclaimed drama brilliantly captures one of the most dynamic chapters in American history and the man at the center of it all.

“Following our innovative production of the groundbreaking American musical West Side Story, ALL THE WAY is the perfect production to continue the fourth season of Asolo Rep’s American Character Project,” said Michael Donald Edwards, producing artistic director of Asolo Rep. “ALL THE WAY is a thrilling night in the theatre with immense contemporary resonance. It is a play that makes you feel like you are living through one of the most tumultuous, defining moments in the great American story.”

CAST

(In Order of Appearance)

Nick Wyman* ………………………………………… Lyndon B. Johnson

Kevin Barber ………………………………………….. Walter Jenkins, Representative William Colmer,

ensemble

Denise Cormier* Lady Bird Johnson, Katharine Graham, Katharine St. George, ensemble

Matthew McGee*……………………………………… Tailor, Stanley Levison, Speaker John

McCormack, Deputy Price, Trammell, Vice Cop, ensemble

Lisa Egan Woods ……………………………………. Secretary, Wallace Crowd, White House Staff

(maid), Delegate/Committee member, Nurse, Ensemble

Karl Hamilton* ………………………………………… Senator Hubert Humphrey, Ensemble

Joe D. Lauck* …………………………………………. Senator Richard Russell, Representative Emanue

Celler, Witness #5, Ensemble

William Dick* …………………………………………… J. Edgar Hoover, Strom Thurmond, Ensemble

Joe Knispel …………………………………………….. Robert McNamara, Butler, Delegate, Bartender,

Ensemble

A.K. Murtadha* ……………………………………….. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Michael Kinsey ……………………………………….. Ralph Abernathy, Butler, Ensemble

Chris Alexey Diaz ……………………………………. James Harrison, James Chaney, Aaron Henry,

butler, Townsperson/Choir member, Ensemble

Mark Jacoby* ………………………………………….. Cartha “Deke” DeLoach, Representative Howard

“Judge” Smith, Senator Everett Dirksen, Governor Carl Sanders, Vice Cop, Ensemble

Tyla Abercrumbie* …………………………………… Coretta Scott King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ensemble

Don Walker …………………………………………….. Senator Jim Eastland, Representative William

McCulloch, Governor Paul Johnson, Jr., Ensembl

David Breitbarth* …………………………………….. Governor George Wallace, Representative James

Corman, Senator Mike Mansfield, Walter Reuther, Witness #1, Ensemble

Kim Stephenson ……………………………………… Muriel Humphrey, Lurleen Wallace,

Delegate/Committee member, Ensemble

Sean Michael ………………………………………….. Stokely Carmichael, Witness #3, Ensemble

Brian Keys ……………………………………………… Bob Moses, David Dennis, Witness #4, Ensemble

Ernest Perry Jr.* …………………………………….. Roy Wilkins, Shoe-Shiner, Ensemble

Evan Reynolds White+ …………………………….. Andrew Goodman, Reporter #1 (Wallace press

conference) Wallace Crowd, Senator Clark, Delegate, Witness #2, Ensemble

Kelsey Petersen ……………………………………… New Orleans Announcer, Reporter #2 (Wallace

press conference), Wallace Crowd, Delegate, Ensemble

Tom Harney …………………………………………… Norwegian King, Butler, FBI (digger), Delegate,

Barber, Secret Service, Ensemble

Mark Comer …………………………………………… Edwin King, Wallace Crowd, Representative Willis,

Reporter, FBI (digger), Delegate/Committee member, Ensemble

Jordan Ben Sobel ……………………………………. Network Correspondent, Nobel Announcer,

Wallace Crowd, FBI (MLK surveillance), FBI (Digger), Ensemble

* = Members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

+Appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

SELECTED CREATIVE TEAM MEMBERS

Director Emily Sophia Knapp

Scenic Designer Steven C. Kemp

Costume Designer Sarah Smith

Lighting Designer David Weiner

Projection Designer Shawn Sagady

Sound Designer Matthew Parker

Composer Paul Prendergast

Hair/Wig & Make-Up Designer Michelle Hart

Voice & Dialect Coach Patricia Delorey

 

SELECTED ARTISTIC BIOS

(In Alphabetical Order)

TYLA ABERCRUMBIE* GUEST ARTIST, FOURTH SEASON (Coretta Scott King/Fannie Lou Hamer, Ensemble, All The Way) is excited to return to Asolo Rep, under the direction of Emily Knapp. She appeared in last season’s The Matchmaker and Good People. Regional credits; Court Theatre, Next Theatre, Northlight, Timeline, The Goodman, Portland Stage Company,

Pittsburgh Public, Milwaukee Repertory, ATL, St. Louis Black Repertory, Victory Gardens, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Studio Arena, Onyx Theatre Company, Coronet Theatre. Film & Television Credits: Poker House, Crisis, Low Winter Sun, The Mob Doctor, The Chicago Code,

Detroit 187, The Beast, the 2015 spring release of the film Unexpected and Starz new series The Girlfriend Experience.

DAVID BREITBARTH* ASSOCIATE ARTIST, TWENTIETH SEASON (Governor George

Wallace, Representative James Corman, Senator Mike Mansfield, Walter Reuther, Witness #1, Ensemble, All the Way) Over 75 productions at Asolo Rep include: Both Your Houses, The Grapes of Wrath, Glengarry Glen Ross, Clybourne Park, God of Carnage, Once in a Lifetime, Twelve Angry Men, The Front Page, The Immigrant, world premieres of Men of Tortuga and Perfect Mendacity, The Winter’s Tale, A Few Good Men, Laughing Stock, A Flea in Her Ear, Rounding Third, Art, Hobson’s Choice, and Nicholas Nickleby. Broadway 1st National Tour: Spring Awakening. Off-Broadway: Short Change, Perfect Crime, Fluorescent Hunger, and This Hard Life. Los Angeles: Life in the Trees (West Coast premiere) and David’s Mother. Film and television: Frasier, Taken!, Law & Order, and Fame. He has appeared regionally around the country and was recently named a member of Florida Repertory Theatre’s Ensemble of Theatre Artists. David is a proud 2013 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow selected by the prestigious Ten Chimneys Foundation and he is married to the actress Kate Hampton, of whom he is also proud.

DENISE CORMIER* GUEST ARTIST, SECOND SEASON (Lady Bird Johnson/Katharine Graham/Katharine St. George, Ensemble, All the Way) Asolo Rep: Good People, Our Betters. Ms. Cormier appeared in the first national Broadway tour of The Graduate. Regionally she has appeared in Good People (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), Clybourne Park (Northern

Stage), Diary of Anne Frank (Indiana Repertory), Intimate Apparel (Actors Theatre of Louisville/Cleveland Play House), Annapurna (Magic Theatre) and seasons at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and Theatre at Monmouth. Film and TV credits: The Affair, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Six Degrees, Mermaids, In Dreams and The Big Gay Musical. Graduate of Shakespeare Theatre Company ACA @ GWU. www.denisecormier.com

EMILY SOPHIA KNAPP FIRST SEASON (Director, All the Way) Emily was the associate director on the Broadway production of Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way (Tony Awards: Best Play, Best Actor – Bryan Cranston), as well as the productions at ART, Seattle Rep, and the premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As a 7-year OSF company member, she received the 2012 Artistic Office Fellowship, co-directed the Daedalus Project and assisted with King Lear and Robert Schenkkan’s Great Society. As an actor, Emily has appeared at the Guthrie, Goodman, BAM, Berkeley Rep, OSF, McCarter, Lyric Stage, and many others. She is a 2015 recipient of the TCG Leadership University Mentorship. She attended L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier and earned her BA at Harvard. Emily would like to thank Michael, Bill, Nick, and Mark.

A.K. MURTADHA* GUEST ARTIST, FIRST SEASON (Martin Luther King, Jr., All the Way) is pleased to be making his Asolo Repertory debut. He has enjoyed various classical and contemporary roles in regional and repertory theatres. His most recent plays include Intimate Apparel and Detroit ‘67. Some of his TV and Film credits include: NCIS-LA, All My Children, Raising the Bar, The Unit, Medium, Numb3rs, and the upcoming feature – Redstone. Awards include Best Actor – New Orleans Short film festival – In the Wind; NAACP Award: Best Ensemble – All My Sons. He was also the Featured Guest Artist for Auburn University’s – The America Play. www.akmurtadha.com

NICK WYMAN* GUEST ARTIST, SECOND SEASON (Lyndon B. Johnson, All the Way) Mr. Wyman joyfully returns to the Asolo Rep, where he delighted audiences as the rascally John Barsad in the pre-Broadway production of A Tale of Two Cities. His fourteen other Broadway credits include Catch Me If You Can, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Sly Fox, and My Fair Lady. Television viewers may have seen him on VEEP, Boardwalk Empire, Elementary, One Life to Live, etc. Among his feature films are Die Hard With a Vengeance; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; and Funny Farm. A proud 40-year member, he is the former President of Actors’ Equity Association. www.nickwyman.com

ALL THE WAY PUBLIC PROGRAMMING

[email protected]: ALL THE WAY

Saturday, January 16 at 7pm; show starts at 8pm Asolo Rep’s Mezzanine

Contact Asolo Rep’s Box Office for subscription and ticket information

Now in its seventh season, [email protected] is Sarasota’s premier cultural event connecting local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities with fantastic theatre. Enjoy a pre- show reception and learn about participating LGBT organizations, gain personal insight into ALL THE WAY from the creative team and cast members, and mingle with the actors and other OUT attendees after the performance.

[email protected] is sponsored by U.S. Trust, Visit Sarasota County, Morton’s Gourmet Market & Catering, Community Foundation of Sarasota County – Our Sarasota Fund and McCauley Brown Fund, and Watermark Media.

ALL THE WAY IllumiNation Event

Tuesday, February 2 at 6:30pm

Pre-show cocktail reception and a post-show discussion held on the Mezzanine Performance in the Mertz Theatre

Contact Asolo Rep’s Box Office for series package information and single performance tickets.

IllumiNation is Asolo Rep’s new series of performances and events promoting cross-cultural conversations in the community. IllumiNation evenings begin with a cocktail hour at 6:30pm, continue with that evening’s performance at 7:30pm and conclude with a moderated panel discussion where audience members can further explore the topical and social issues that they have just seen played out on stage.

IllumiNation is sponsored by Morton’s Gourmet Market & Catering.

Inside Asolo Rep: ALL THE WAY & Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Wednesday, February 24 at 11am Cook Theatre

Panel discussions are $5 and free for all donors and Asolo Rep Guild Members

Get rare insights into the artistic process, hear directly from the people responsible for producing ALL THE WAY and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and engage in stimulating discussion inspired by the plays’ themes and issues.

Inside Asolo Rep is sponsored by Hotel Indigo and the Observer

The Scoop

One hour prior to every performance of ALL THE WAY

Asolo Rep’s Mertz Theatre, orchestra level

Arrive one hour before curtain to hear the ideas and inspirations that contributed to the making of ALL THE WAY.

ALL THE WAY

Tuesday Talkbacks

February 2, March 15, March 22, 2016 Asolo Rep’s Mezzanine

Join us for an intimate post-show discussion with featured actors or guests following every Tuesday performance of ALL THE WAY.

Meet the Actors

Sunday, February 7 at 2pm Asolo Rep’s Mertz Theatre

Immediately following the 2pm matinee, ask questions and learn more from members of the cast at this intimate discussion.

TICKETS

New this Season: Start times for Wednesday & Thursday performances will be moved one-half hour earlier to 1:30pm and 7:30pm. All preview performances will begin at 8pm.

Tickets for ALL THE WAY and the entire 2015-2016 Asolo Repertory Theatre season are on sale now. Tickets for ALL THE WAY start at $24. To purchase tickets, call 941.351.8000 or 800.361.8388, visit www.asolorep.org, or visit the Asolo Repertory Theatre Box Office, located in the lobby of the theatre. Asolo Repertory Theatre is located at 5555 North Tamiami Trail in the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts. The box office is currently open Monday 10am – 4pm, Tuesday – Thursday 10am – 7:30pm, Friday – Saturday 10am – 8pm, and Sunday 10am – 2pm. The box office closes at 5pm when there are no evening performances and phone lines close one hour prior to the start of any performance. Season subscription packages are also available online and by visiting or calling the box office.

 

SPONSORS

Asolo Rep is able to present ALL THE WAY because of the generosity of its sponsors. Corporate sponsors for ALL THE WAY are Plumbing Today, ABC 7, Innovative Dining, and SRQ Media. Asolo Rep 2015-2016 Major Season Sponsors are Florida State University, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, Designing Women Boutique, Woman’s Exchange, Inc., and Sunset Cadillac of Bradenton. Asolo Rep’s artistic programs are paid for in part by Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax revenues. Asolo Rep is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

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