'All the Way' Opening Night: Drama on and off-stage

All the Way in Denver This photo shows C. David Johnson in his dressing room just minutes before making his DCPA Theatre Company debut in the massive role of President Lyndon Baines Johnson in ‘All the Way.” To see our full gallery of Opening Night photos, including one of Johnson with his daughter after the performance, click the forward arrow on the photo above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Opening Night of the DCPA Theatre Company’s All the Way had more than its share of drama on Friday, and not only on the The Stage Theatre. Just 40 minutes before the opening curtain, word came down that understudy Josh Robinson would be needed to perform that night. Without having had a rehearsal.

 All the Way Josh RobinsonTo give you some perspective, consider that Robinson understudies four different actors in the All the Way cast – and all of them play multiple roles. And because the show was not even officially open yet, the schedule had not allowed for the understudies to have what is called “put-in rehearsal.” That’s when attention shifts from the principal actors to their replacements, should they ever be called upon during the course of a run. The put-in rehearsal is typically scheduled for the Sunday morning following the opening performance.

Josh Robinson quoteJosh Robinson is an award-winning and Harvard-trained actor who made his debut with the DCPA Theatre Company in Picnic back in 2003. He was driving to the Denver Performing Arts Complex with his 14-year-old daughter, Fiona, on Friday night (pictured above after the show) so they could watch the opening performance along with the rest of the audience. That’s when he got “The Call.” Stage Manager Rachel Ducat informed Robinson he would go on playing the central role of Walter Jenkins (LBJ’s personal assistant), as well as Mississippi Rep. William Colmer.

And Robinson was stuck in traffic.

Oh, let’s let Robinson tell the story of what he now calls “one of the five greatest nights of my life”: 

“As an understudy, I had been dutifully going to rehearsals to watch, and using the Line Learner app for the first time. (Line Learner allows you to record scenes from plays. It leaves leave gaps in the recording so you can speak your lines aloud.) I understudy for four actors in All the Way. But I had never walked the routes, used the props or spoken to any of the actors on stage.

“I was driving with my daughter, Fiona, to watch the opening perfromance when I got the call. I listened to my lines in the car on the way there. There was an accident on Speer Boulevard, so we didn’t arrive at the theater until 7:10 – that’s 20 minutes before curtain. I got my suit on right away, went to wigs to have my hair combed, got my picture taken by digital artist Charlie Miller for projections that are essential to the plot, and then went backstage with 5 minutes to spare. I checked my props, and my run sheet. They announced I was going on and (actor) John Jurcheck started a round of applause in the audience.

“I have never had such a sense of community. Rachel Ducat and (Assistant Stage Manager) Matt Campbell were so supportive. (Fellow actors) Paul DeBoy and Todd Cerveris and the guys in the dressing room were excited and focused. (Assistant Director) Geoff Kent gave me a big hug. Erik Sandvold shadowed me backstage, always there with my script when I came off. Alan Richards and the other dressers had me in and out of the right costumes in a flash. Tyler Stauffer from the run crew  added moving some of my furniture to his list to give me a chance to breathe. I felt buoyed all night.”

Robinson and his castmates drew an opening-night standing ovation, and went on again for both performances on Saturday. At the cast party afterward, actor after actor came by and congratulated Robinson.

Summarizing his experience, Robinson said: “I know there is no company that could have been more supportive, and no job I would rather have.”

All the Way. John Moore
Opening night celebration, from left: Charles E. Wallace, Terence Archie, Cajardo Lindsey and Jordan Barbour. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

All the Way: Ticket information

  • By Robert Schenkkan
  • Jan. 29-Feb. 28 at the Stage Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org.
  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of All the Way
    5 things we learned about ‘All the Way’: Johnson gave a dam!
    Video: Cast reads from Civil Rights Act
    When Robert Schenkkan meets LBJ, sparks fly
    Five ways you don’t have to connect the dots ‘All the Way’ to today
    Todd Cerveris: Break a leg from Broadway
    Art and Artist: Meet Stage Manager Rachel Ducat

    Full casting announced
    Official show page
    DCPA Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16

    Meet the Cast Profiles (to date)
    Meet Todd Cerveris
    Meet Paul DeBoy
    Meet Mike Hartman

    All the Way. James Newcomb. John MooreActor James Newcomb (Sen. Hubert Humphrey) was joined by his sister, Claudia Carson (a longtime DCPA employee), and mother Bev Newcomb-Madden, who has directed more plays and musicals than any other woman in Colorado theatre history. James Newcomb also appeared in last year”s ‘Benediction.’ John Moore

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