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Bryan Cranston won the Tony for lead actor in a play on Sunday for his Broadway debut as Lyndon B. Johnson in playwright Robert Schenkkan‘s political bio-drama All the Way.
“My first Broadway play was in 1977. I snuck into the second act of Hair,” said Cranston upon accepting the award at Radio City Music Hall.
The presidential role is Cranston’s first leading turn since wrapping his Emmy-winning arc as meth mogul Walter White on Breaking Bad. He earned nearly unanimous raves and was also feted at the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk awards.
“It’s wonderful to be able to feel the immediate response — even subtle gasps, or push-backs when they’re offended by something, you can feel it,” he previously told CBS This Morning of being onstage. For the role, he listened to hours of recorded phone conversations and wears earlobe extensions onstage. He admitted that he asked the head of wardrobe to lower the rest of the cast’s shoes by an inch to make LBJ appear taller than his political cronies. “He used his size and his girth to intimidate; he invaded their space.”
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Directed by Bill Rauch, All the Way traces Johnson’s ascension to the Oval Office following John F. Kennedy‘s assassination, his tenacious efforts to push through the Civil Rights Act and his contentious campaign to be elected in his own right.
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All the Way also nabbed a nomination for best play. The production, playing at the Neil Simon Theater in a limited engagement through June 29, has grossed $15 million to date. Producers last week announced that the hit play recouped its $3.9 million investment and became officially profitable shortly after celebrating its 100th performance on Broadway.
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