Brian Cox used ‘muscle memory’ to tackle ‘The Great Society’ role

Brian Cox had no intention of tackling a meaty character like Lyndon Baines Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s “The Great Society.” He’d moved away from big theater roles to focus on parts in movies and television, most prominently HBO’s “Succession,” on which he plays Logan Roy, the founder of a media empire.

“At my age,” says Cox, 73, “I should be watching the daisies grow.”

He signed on to do a staged reading of “The Great Society” for “a nice fee,” but it went so well, director Bill Rauch approached him about doing a full-scale production.

Cox hadn’t played such a gigantic role since he did King Lear, nearly 30 years ago. Though terrified, he said yes, and hired an old dresser friend to “beat the lines into me.” And then something “bizarre” happened: “My old self, the young man who could do these parts, sat on my shoulder and said, ‘You’ll be all right.’ And the muscle memory came back. I thought it had gone, but it had not.” To read more, click here.

‘The Great Society’ sets new theater standard

“The Great Society” is a theatrical triumph! Written by Robert Schenkkan, and playing at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, it has a captivating, historical story that shows us all the conflicts that went on with President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) during his administration and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Black people trying to get voting rights, and Senator Bobby Kennedy. You learn that LBJ was a simple Texas boy who struggled growing up in poverty and genuinely cared about the poor. He was a man with a great deal of humanity, but he was also surrounded by people such as J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, who were not his friends. To read more, click here.

In The Great Society, We Get a Marvelous, If Painful, Look at LBJ and the War that Won’t Go Away

Hey, hey, LBJ

How many kids did you kill today!


That was one of many protest chants used against President Lyndon B. Johnson and his war in Vietnam, a tragic conflict that resulted in the deaths of some 58,000 American soldiers, plus some 200,000 South Vietnamese troops dead, and was the first war that America lost. It created a nationwide wrath against LBJ and his government and television news programs were filled for years with coverage of huge and loud protest marches against the war, especially after the 1968 Tet Offensive. The scalding story of the war, and Johnson’s heralded Great Society, is being told in a brilliant new play by Robert Schenkkan, The Great Society, that opened last night at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, at New York’s Lincoln Center. To read more, click here.

Take the Stage, Mr. President

Ignore all the impeachment drama in Washington. To witness presidential politics in true theatrical form, head straight to Broadway. The Great White Way has been home to many plays and musicals that explore the life and times of our commanders in chief. The newest example: “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s look at Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency as the Texas-born leader pushed for a social-minded domestic agenda while also grappling with the war in Vietnam. The production, featuring the Scottish actor Brian Cox (of HBO’s “Succession”) in the presidential role, opened earlier this month. To read more, click here.

Brian Cox tells how he brings a sympathetic LBJ to life on Broadway in ‘The Great Society’ — with a wink to the present

There’s a moment at the end of “The Great Society,” the marathon retelling of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s second term that’s currently playing on Broadway, when the audience giggles. Because it’s 2019. And because the political drama playing out beyond the walls of the Vivian Beaumont Theater naturally informs how audiences receive the show, a followup to the Tony-winning “All the Way.” Before the curtain closes, Johnson accuses a freshly elected Richard Nixon of treason for attempting to insert himself in Vietnam War negotiations behind the U.S. government’s back. Nixon, played by David Garrison, in turn promises his predecessor he will provide America with honest government. The unspoken historical echo to the present impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine draws a response. To read more, click here.

The Great Society review – Brian Cox is an electrifying LBJ on Broadway

Early in The Great Society, the sequel to the Tony-winning All The Way, President Lyndon B Johnson (Brian Cox) recalls the women of his youth in the Texas Hill Country, mothers and aunts with bent backs and hands crabbed by a “dog’s life”. When a younger Johnson finally made it to Washington, he did whatever it took to bring them electricity – kissed up, begged, told “a lie or two”. The ends justified the means, he was sure. “When that first electric pump brought water into the house at the turn of a tap,” he asks, “do you think any of those women thought, ‘Oh no, I can’t use this, Lyndon lied.’” To read more, click here.

‘I looked to Shakespeare when I wrote my Lyndon Johnson plays’

When seeking inspiration for his two plays on the rise and fall of US president Lyndon B Johnson, playwright Robert Schenkkan turned to Shakespeare.

All the Way – his Tony-winning play about Johnson’s efforts to pass the landmark 1965 civil rights law – could be viewed as a victorious history play, akin to Henry V. In contrast, The Great Society – the second part of Schenkkan’s Johnson diptych – which opened on Broadway earlier this month, plays out as decline and fall.

“I look at All the Way as a drama and it does have a triumphant finish with a dark undertone,” says Schenkkan. “The Great Society is absolutely and inescapably a tragedy. To read more click here.

A president comes to Broadway with ‘The Great Society’

NEW YORK — “The Great Society” is a sequel to the Tony Award-winning play “All the Way,” starring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B. Johnson. This time around, theater legend Brian Cox portrays our 36th president in an unforgettable performance. The 73-year-old actor was just 17 when LBJ first took office. Johnson’s presidency coincided with the beginning of his acting career in the United Kingdom. “I’m old enough to have grown up during that period,” Cox said. “He’s a tragic figure,” the actor added, “What he was trying to do was great, wonderful, but his Achilles' heel was Vietnam.” To read more, click here.

The Great Society, Sequel to Tony-Winning All the Way, Opens on Broadway

The Great Society, the sequel to Robert Schenkkan's 2014 Tony-winning epic All the Way, officially opens at Broadway's Vivian Beaumont Theater on October 1. Bill Rauch, who helmed All the Way, also directs the new work, which began previews on September 6. Brian Cox stars in the production as President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Capturing Johnson's passionate and aggressive attempts to build a great society for all, the new play 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 destruction of Vietnam and the creation of some of the greatest social programs America has ever known—with one man at the center of it all: LBJ. To read more, click here.

How Succession’s Brian Cox Found His Voice for LBJ in Broadway’s The Great Society

One of the things that fascinates Brian Cox about President Lyndon Baines Johnson is that the 36th President of the United States was a different person in every room he was in. “He’s such a brilliant operator,” Cox says of the man he now inhabits eight shows a week in The Great Society at Broadway’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre. “He really cajoles, seduces, bonds, blackmails; he does the whole bit.”

In creating a character who nearly switches personalities according to his goals and environment, the actor set out to find the voice to match—a voice previously brought to the stage by Jack Willis (a Kansan with a Midwestern bent) at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Bryan Cranston (to Tony-winning effect) in Robert Schenkkan’s first LBJ play All The Way on Broadway and for HBO. “Each bring a different, very personal way in on the musicality of Robert’s language—not unlike LBJ himself,” says director Bill Rauch. “LBJ would lean into the Texan twang more when he was trying to charm someone or when he was pulling out a folksy anecdote in order to disarm or make a point.” To read more, click here.