PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: All The Way — "Happy Birthday, Mister President"

By Harry Haun
07 Mar 2014

Michael McKean
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
The flaw that escaped his detection — but not J. Edgar Hoover's — couldn't have been closer to him. His top aide, Walter Jenkins, a father of six, was arrested in a men's-room scandal just before the election, forcing Johnson to disassociate completely from his longtime friend and trusted advisor, which he did with cruel speed.

"Jenkins," said Schenkken, "went back to Texas and got a job outside of politics. After LBJ left the White House, there was a rapprochement of sorts. Walter was invited out to the ranch. I don't think Walter's wife ever forgave LBJ, but, when LBJ was asked toward the end of his final term in the White House what were the things he was looking forward to, he said, 'Having a cigarette and seeing Walter Jenkins.'"

Michael McKean, in his fifth consecutive Broadway play for producer Jeffrey Richards, has a deliciously droll moment as Hoover, squirming uneasily when the President starts interrogating him how one can actually spot a homosexual.

McKean said that he did some reading on Hoover but skipped the Leonardo DiCaprio bio-flick. "That's not a knock — it's just somebody else's fiction," he explained. "It's hard to find any specimens of Hoover speaking off the cuff. You can see LBJ getting interviewed and thinking on his feet, but Hoover never did anything that wasn't really, really prepared. He was a stammerer as a kid, so it all became about image and control, and, consequently, he became a very controlling person."

Betsy Aidem, fielding several roles (like most of the cast), plays the key women in LJB's life — wife Ladybird Johnson and Washington Post owner Katharine Graham.

Bob Moses, one of two people in the play attending the opening night performance, was played by Eric Lenox Abrams, who does some spirited and prolonged rabble-rousing in the audience that winds up getting applause like it was a musical number.

J. Bernard Calloway is double-cast as Rev. Ralph Abernathy and a butler in the White House (albeit, not the one Forest Whitaker played in "Lee Daniels' The Butler").

"Ralph Abernathy means a lot to me," admitted the actor. "I went to Alabama State University in Montgomery where I got my Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, and he also got his degree from Alabama State University. Ironically, Brandon Dirden, who plays Martin Luther King Jr., went to Morehouse College — and we're both Southerners, from Florida. That's what we really have in common, especially the spiritual background. I was Pentacostal and he was Baptist, but we grew up in the church."