Top Hat, Sweeney Todd and Billy Elliot were the big musical theatre winners in the 37th Olivier Awards (hosted by the Society of London Theatre and sponsored by Mastercard), held at London’s Royal Opera House and compered by Sheridan Smith and Hugh Bonneville.
Top Hat, currently running at the Aldwych Theatre, was victorious in three categories – Best New Musical (amazing for a piece which started its life as a movie in 1935), Best Theatre Choreographer for Bill Deamer and Best Costume Design for Jon Morrell.It was also a great night for the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Sweeney Todd – which transferred to the Adelphi Theatre in March 2012 – with Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton (hosts of the 2011 and 2012 Olivier Awards) winning the double whammy of Best Actor and Actress in a Musical for their roles as Sweeney and Mrs Lovett. The musical came up trumps too as Best Musical Revival.
One of the most anticipated prizes, the Radio 2 Audience Award, voted for purely by the public – more than 65,000 of them – went to Billy Elliot (celebrating eight years at the Victoria Palace Theatre) which won out over other nominees Matilda the Musical, The Phantom of the Opera and Wicked. The award was presented by Vicky Entwistle (currently playing Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables which won the R2 Award last year) and Elaine Paige via the Olivier Awards stage at the Covent Garden Piazza, followed by a performance of ‘Electricity’ from Tade Biesinger playing Billy (the young actor has also taken on the role on Broadway). Billy Elliot had been shortlisted in the category for the last three years). The Covent Garden event was hosted by R2 presenter Claudia Winkleman and West End leading man Michael Xavier.
There was one singular winner for A Chorus Line for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical, with Leigh Zimmerman (interviewed in the first digital issue of Musical Theatre Review) obviously moved by the honour.
And another emotional part of the evening came in the ceremony’s finale as director/choreographer Gillian Lynne received the Special Award for her great achievements as a dancer, director and choreographer (including of course her work on Cats and The Phantom of the Opera). While actor David Suchet spoke of her achievements, a surprise guest, Michael Crawford, presented her with the award. Accompanying performances came from Michael Ball singing ‘Love Changes Everything’ (Aspects of Love) and an appearance from the UK touring cast of Cats. Lynne commented that 67 years before she had stood in the same spot on the stage of the Royal Opera House, in her first solo role, taking her first solo bow. While musicals Kiss, Me Kate and The Bodyguard had both received five and four nominations respectively, they left empty-handed.
There were many musical performances throughout the evening, including host and two-time Olivier Award winner Smith opening the evening’s festivities singing ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in a number choreographed by Arlene Phillips. Also featured were Will Young and the cast of Cabaret, Kiss Me, Kate stars Hannah Waddingham and Alex Bourne, and the ensemble of A Chorus Line, together with James Bourne singing a track from Loserville and Emi Wokoma offering a taste of the Tina Turner-inspired show Soul Sister (both Best New Musical nominees).
Special highlights were Petula Clark, now in her 80th year, performing ‘With One Look’ from Don Black, Christopher Hampton and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard (Clark has played the lead role of Norma Desmond more times than any other actress), a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch from American actress/singer Idina Menzel (‘That’s How I Say Goodbye’ from Sweet Smell of Success). Glee star and Emmy, Tony and Golden Globe nominee Matthew Morrison also gave a special performance inspired by West Side Story.
Last but not least, Matilda the Musical composer/lyricist Tim Minchin gave a moving performance of ‘My House’ from that very show, while The Bodyguard’s Heather Headley received a rare standing ovation for her rendtion of ‘I Will Always Love You’. All were accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by David Charles Abell, with original music by Larry Blank and orchestrations by Blank and Mark Cumberland.
Presenters on the night included Damian Lewis, Rupert Penry-Jones, stars of Once Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitesic, Anna Chancellor, Kim Cattrall and Daniel Radcliffe.
The biggest winner of the evening was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the adaption of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel by Simon Stephens at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre. The play won seven awards, equalling Matilda the Musical’s record win in 2012.
The Olivier Awards were broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, with extensive highlights broadcast shortly afterwards on ITV1.
All the musical theatre winners are listed below:
Best New Musical: Top Hat
Best Musical Revival: Sweeney Todd
BBC Radio 2 Audience Award: Billy Elliot the Musical
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical: Leigh Zimmerman (A Chorus Line)
Best Actor in a Musical: Michael Ball (Sweeney Todd)
Best Actress in a Musical: Imelda Staunton (Sweeney Todd)
Best Theatre Choreographer: Bill Deamer (Top Hat)
Best Costume Design: Jon Morrell (Top Hat)
Special Award: Gillian Lynne
Pictures exclusively for Musical Theatre Review from the Red Carpet: Vivienne Vincent