How Far Do I Think This Play May Go? – All the Way

I am making a happy habit of talking to the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan on some of his particularly fun days! Schenkkan’s play about LBJ’s first tumultuous year in office, All The Way, about to open at the American Repertory Theatre in Boston starring Bryan Cranston (Emmy Award-winning actor for “Breaking Bad”), has SOLD OUT the entire run before its first preview.

All the Way -- American Repertory Theatre

All the Way — American Repertory Theatre

In reaction to this exciting news, Schenkkan said on the phone to me today “I think we’re breaking good.”

When I first talked to Robert Schenkkan at the Humana Festival in April, it was just a few hours before All the Way was named best new play of 2012 (Schenkkan Wins Steinberg/ATCA Best New Play Prize). I love this play. Schenkkan says that since I saw it at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, it has evolved significantly. He says his very smart and demanding cast has helped him to focus down on the play as a whole and that it is richer for it. He is very happy with the play in its current form.

For a play to sell out before it has even had its first preview performance is a pretty rare occurrence. Right now on Broadway, it may be happening with the upcoming revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, starring real-life married couple Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, directed by Mike Nichols.  The limited engagement run looks like it is likely to be sold out before its first preview performance Oct. 1.  (I am delighted to say I already have my tickets.)

Kent Nicholson, Director of Musical Theatre at Off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons confirmed that a pre-preview sell-out occurred last season with the new musical Far From Heaven due to the exciting combination of the music writers (Scott Frankel and Michael Korie who also wrote Grey Gardens), the director (Michael Greif) and the star (Kelli O’Hara), but it is a rare event and is almost always “star powered”.  That is certainly the case with All the Way as well, helped by the fact that the play itself has already won several prestigious prizes and generated its own interest.

In addition to Bryan Cranston as LBJ, A.R.T.’s production of All the Way also stars Brandon J. Dirden, Michael McKean and Reed Birney.  Star power might account for the pre-show buzz, but I promise that in this case the post-show buzz will be as much about the play as the players.

As far as those fun-day conversations go, I hope someday Robert Schenkkan will take my call when the Tony nominations are announced. . .

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