The Great Society BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
  • NY TIMES

  • DEADLINE

  • VARIETY

  • HR

  • TIME OUT

Opening Night:
October 1, 2019
Closing:
November 30, 2019

Theater: Vivian Beaumont / 150 West 65th Street, New York, NY, 10023

Synopsis: 

From the producers, writer, and director of the Tony Award®-winning Broadway production All The Way comes a thrilling new play about the LBJ legacy: The Great Society. Presented at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, this striking production features a brilliant cast portraying over 50 characters.

Capturing Johnson’s passionate and aggressive attempts to build a just society for all, The Great Society follows his epic triumph in a landslide election to the agonizing decision not to run for re-election just three years later. It was an era that would define history forever: the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the escalation of the Vietnam War, and the creation of some of the greatest social programs America has ever known—and one man was at the center of it all: LBJ.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Great Society

    Review: In ‘The Great Society,’ Another Presidential Nightmare

    Jesse Green

    October 1, 2019: About halfway through “The Great Society,” the overstuffed, underbaked play by Robert Schenkkan that opened on Tuesday at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, something strange happens to Lyndon B. Johnson. He loses his grip. Ah, good, you may think. Finally the master manipulator played by Brian Cox — the Scottish Shakespearean and star of HBO’s “Succession” — will become interesting as a dramatic character. So why doesn’t he?

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  • DEADLINE REVIEW OF The Great Society

    ‘The Great Society’ Broadway Review: LBJ Meets His Match – Again – As Brian Cox Picks Up Where Bryan Cranston Left Off

    Greg Evans

    October 1, 2019: And onto the stage come the players, a parade of them, more than 50 (played by a cast of 19), each ushering himself (and they are mostly hims) into the spotlight and Johnson’s orbit to deliver the bits assigned by history. The fluidity with which director Bill Rauch – returning from All The Way – presents this march of time is never short of impressive, often near miraculous, jarring when necessary (the Southern focus shifts to the urban tinderbox of Watts with the shock of a slap). But like All The Way, The Great Society often feels like historical shorthand, never more so than when the increasingly guilt-ridden and tormented Defense Secretary MacNamarra periodically arrives to provide Johnson and his veep Humphrey with the latest depressing news from the front. Credit Rauch with fleshing out his character when time and Schenkkan’s exposition-heavy script meet him only halfway.

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  • VARIETY REVIEW OF The Great Society

    Broadway Review: ‘The Great Society’ Starring Brian Cox

    Marilyn Stasio

    October 1, 2019: Raise your hand if you know who Wilbur Mills was. Extra points if you can name the state he represented in Congress or the stripper in the sex scandal that would force his reluctant retirement. But even if you happen to be conversant with all this stuff, chances are you will lose sight of the Arkansas congressman among the parade of politicians who crowd the stage in “The Great Society,” Robert Schenkkan’s sweeping political drama about LBJ’s nerve-wracking efforts to get the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. Brian Cox, the much-lauded stage and film actor currently starring as Logan Roy on HBO’s “Succession,” seems an odd casting choice as Lyndon Baines Johnson, who served as the 36th president of the United States after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Although Cox nails Johnson the political animal who charmed and bullied Washington’s pols – which is the side of the character on constant display here — the actor shows not a hint of LBJ the larger-than-life Texan who gave interviews while on the toilet seat. (Bryan Cranston won a Tony for his performance in Schekken’s first play about LBJ, “All the Way.”)

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  • HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW OF The Great Society

    'The Great Society': Theater Review

    David Rooney

    October 1, 2019: Nothing represents the sad passage from postwar idealism to a culture of political cynicism and chicanery like a newly elected Richard Nixon smugly informing his White House predecessor, "What America wants, Mr. President, is honest government." That sour closing note carries echoes from 1968 to the present ethical vacuum a half-century later, when Washington, D.C., is now swampier than ever. Playwright Robert Schenkkan picks up where he left off in All the Way to chronicle Lyndon Baines Johnson's embattled presidency. If The Great Society often feels as much like history homework as drama, it thrums along on the engine of Brian Cox's unimpeachably magnetic performance as LBJ.

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  • TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF The Great Society

    The Great Society

    Adam Feldman

    October 1, 2019: In All the Way, which ran on Broadway in 2014, Robert Schenkkan offered a largely sympathetic portrait of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s first year in office: his accession to the Presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and his canny machinations to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That play depicted the compromises that undergirded Johnson’s success; its informative sequel, The Great Society, shows the following four years, in which the compromises rise and overwhelm him. This is a very different Johnson indeed. Whereas Bryan Cranston brought a dogged vitality and wily command to the role, Brian Cox’s version, though still spouting folksy Texas wisdoms and capable of manipulating his foes, seems older, wearier and less secure in his power. This is appropriate to Johnson’s story during this period of upheaval: The great strong-armer and glad-hander is losing his grip. But in the absence of Cranston’s central charisma, the play—already spread thin by the longer time frame—seems even more like an illustrated lecture.

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