Recently caught the touring version of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” the quirky and veddy British-tweaking musical about an upstart English gentleman who bumps off a line of men and women standing between him and an earldom. The show was a semi Cinderella winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical, defeating – among other things – Disney’s “Aladdin” and the Carole King story, “Beautiful.”
That gap of about 1.5 to two years is from Broadway victory to L.A. tour visit is pretty standard. “Beautiful” will be at the Pantages this summer. “Aladdin,” heaven only knows. Where “Gentleman’s Guide” is concerned, the southland actually got to see it first (well second, after Hartford Stage) during its pre Broadway run at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.
Looking back over those same 2014 awards, we see that two of the five Best Play Tony nominees have made their way west as well, including Harvey Fierstein’s “Casa Valentina” which is currently at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Noticeably absent from any upcoming programming schedules is the best play winner. That would be Robert Schenkkan’s “All the Way,” the first of Schenkkan’s two plays about the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. “All the Way” has been adapted into an HBO film which will premiere in May, with original Broadway star Bryan Cranston re-upping as LBJ.
The play was developed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and has been produced subsequently at American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge and at the Seattle Repertory Theatre where in played in rep with its sequel, “The Great Society.” It has since been produced in Memphis, all over Texas and is currently at Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage.
Has the play made it “all the way” to Los Angeles? It has not. Per South Coast Repertory’s website, “All the Way” is “confirmed” as part of the Costa Mesa based company’s 2016-17 season which would mean the play would get to Orange County September-ish at the earliest.
Astonishingly, the 2014 Tony award-winner, which premiered in Ashland, Oregon in 2012, will be an HBO movie before it finds a stage in L.A.
How is this possible?
Granted, new ballyhooed plays don’t always make it out this way in a timely fashion, and the Tony award is by no means the only measure of any work’s excellence. Some plays, have unwieldy casting and technical demands and are just plain not easy to mount. “All the Way” has 16 roles, one of which – the pres – is pretty damned formidable. Even with double casting, it’s a sizeable venture.
That said, we’re in an election year. Schenkkan is a Texan with plenty of theatrical SoCal roots. His two part opus, “The Kentucky Cycle,” had its world premiere at Center Theatre Group’s Mark Taper Forum and ended up as the first play to win a Pulitzer Prize that didn’t appear on Broadway first. “Lewis and Clark Reach the Euphrates” was also a Taper world premiere. An early production of “By the Waters of Babylon” was staged at the Geffen Playhouse.
CTG and the Geffen would seem the most likely L.A. regional houses to get the L.A. premiere of “All the Way.” Since the Geffen, the Pasadena Playhouse and the Ahmanson (A CTG house that despite its size could probably hold “All the Way,”) have all recently announced their 16-17 programming, the smart money would be on a Taper production sometime in 2017, presumably with enough distance from the SCR staging. Maybe when it finally gets to L.A., sufficient time will have elapsed that Mr. Cranston might event want to take another swing at it.
Hope springs eternal. Regardless, the play needs to get here. Too long a gap.