|Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva|
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."
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