The biggest surprise for me at today’s Olivier nominations event at the ritzy Rosewood London hotel was just how much this event has grown in a few short years.
Celebrating nominees: you’re all beautiful
I remember so well when I held the first WhatsOnStage Awards Launch Party back in 2002. I believed then, as I still believe, that, when it comes to awards, it really is as big an honour to be nominated as it is to win – and, thus, nominations should be properly announced and celebrated.
That’s why when I founded the WhatsOnStage Awards, it was a very conscious decision to hold a launch party. The results ceremony, or what we initially called the Winners’ Concert, didn’t follow until many years later.
Back then, WhatsOnStage was the only theatre awards holding a nominations event. As part of the major and ongoing overhaul funded by sponsors MasterCard, the Oliviers followed suit a few years ago. However, the last Oliviers nominations I attended, two years ago, was a pretty low-key and stuffy affair at the MayFair hotel: complete silence as lists were reeled off and plenty of producers but few nominees themselves in attendance.
Not so today. Caro Newling, president of awards organiser the Society of London Theatre, led a packed auditorium in a “rehearsal cheer” session before the global live-streaming of James McAvoy (one of this year’s Best Actor nominees, for The Ruling Class) and Lesley Manville (last year’s Best Actress winner) doing the shortlist honours.
At first, whooping was reserved to the end of each category, but soon, the companies of competing plays and musicals were gasping, cheering and wildly applauding every mention of their name throughout. From my seat between the casts of Memphis and the just-opened Carole King bio-show Beautiful, which led the show tallies with nine and eight nominations apiece, it was deafening.
Plays: Miller and majesty
Ivo van Hove’s radical reinvention of Arthur Miller’s 1956 classic A View from the Bridge, not transferred from the Young Vic to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre, leads the plays field, with seven nominations, including: Best Revival, Best Supporting Actress (Phoebe Fox) as well as, aiming to repeat their Critics Circle success, Best Director (van Hove) and Best Actor (Mark Strong).
Last year’s other big Miller revival, Yael Farber’s in-the-round staging of The Crucible, which ran at the other end of The Cut, at the Old Vic, gets two nominations: also for Best Revival and Best Actor (Richard Armitage). We’ll assume one of them will have something to celebrate in the centenary of Miller’s birth this year.
Two new plays about British royalty also jostle at the top of the play tallies: Mike Bartlett’s Critics’ Circle winning verse drama King Charles III (first seen at the Almeida) and the RSC’s two-part adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, now transferring to Broadway (and basking in the glow of the Mark Rylance-led BBC screen version), with six and five nominations apiece.
They are both up for Best New Play, alongside two others originated in the subsidised sector and transferred to the West End: Mark Hayhurst debut Taken at Midnight and Jennifer Haley’s The Nether, first seen at Chichester Festival and the Royal Court and now running, respectively, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and Duke of York’s. (Though, curiously, in the shortlists, Headlong production The Nether seems to be nominated only for its West End run?)
As usual, the Best Actor and Best Actress categories, especially with just four nominees apiece, yield incredibly strong contenders. For Best Actor, Strong and Armitage face competition from Tim Pigott-Smith for I and, looking suitably humbled at the podium when his name was read out by Manville, McAvoy for The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Transformed.
In Best Actress, the competition comprises Evening Standard winner Gillian Anderson for A Streetcar Named Desire, Kristin Scott Thomas for Electra, Imelda Staunton for Good People and Penelope Wilton for Taken at Midnight.
Three out of the four Best Director nominations are also for work on plays. In addition to van Hove, there are three artistic directors in the Best Director running, the Almeida’s Rupert Goold for King Charles III, Headlong boss Jeremy Herrin for his RSC production of Wolf Hall/Bring Up the Bodies and, the single musical contender here, the Donmar’s Josie Rourke for City of Angels.
Musicals: Too many to choose from
2014 (and Q1 of 2015 as the Oliviers no longer goes by calendar year) was absolutely replete with major new musicals: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Sunny Afternoon, Memphis, Urinetown, Made in Dagenham, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Scottsboro Boys (well, the transfer of it anyway), Here Lies Love and Beautiful.
With so many great shows, there’s stiff competition (and plenty of omissions – see below) across the musical fields.
Tally leaders, Memphis and Beautiful go head to head in five award categories, Theatre Choreographer (Serjio Trujillo for Memphis vs Josh Prince for Beautiful), Outstanding Achievement in Music (David Bryan, Joe DiPietro and the Memphis band for Memphis vs the Orchestra – rather than Carole King et al! – for Beautiful), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ian McIntosh for Beautiful vs, splitting the Memphis vote, both Rolan Bell and Jason Pennycooke), Best Actress in a Musical (Beverley Knight for Memphis vs Katie Brayben for Beautiful) and, of course, Best New Musical.
The two other Best New Musical nominees are Here Lies Love and The Kinks bio-show Sunny Afternoon, transferred from Hampstead to the Harold Pinter Theatre. There are also nominations for both “Davies brothers” in Sunny Afternoon: John Dagleish (Ray) is up for Best Actor in a Musical and George Maguire (Dave) is up for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.
Memphis’ Killian Donnelly, The Scottsboro Boys’ Brandon Victor Dixon and Miss Saigon’s Jon Jon Briones complete the Best Actor in a Musical field, while the other two Best Actress in a Musical nominees are two big screen names, Gemma Arterton for Made in Dagenham and Tamsin Greig for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical also yields some high-profile nominees: Nicole Scherzinger for Cats, Samantha Bond for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Haydn Gwynne for Women on the Verge, as well as Lorna Want for Beautiful.
Venues: Young Vic rules, NT disappoints
Venue-wise, the Young Vic, with its critical acclaimed season under artistic director David Lan, dominates the list with 11 nominations: the seven for A View from the Bridge as well as two for A Streetcar Named Desire and one apiece for The Scottsboro Boys and, in the Affiliate category for its run in the Young Vic’s Maria studio, Mike Bartlett’s Bull.
Other subsidised venues with myriad. nominations include Hampstead (seven), the RSC, the Almeida (six each), the Royal Court (five, assuming we’re counting The Nether there) and the Donmar Warehouse (five).
As Nicholas Hytner bows out, the National has another lean year. Has there ever been a year when only a single NT production was nominated? And this one a transfer: David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s Here Lies Love, which receives three Olivier nods. Awards-wise, it’s not a very auspicious ending.
2015 Olivier Award winners are announced on Sunday 12 April 2014.
FULL NOMINATIONS LIST FOR THE OLIVIER AWARDS 2015 WITH MASTERCARD
A View From The Bridge at Young Vic & Wyndham’s Theatre
A Streetcar Named Desire at Young Vic
The Crucible at Old Vic
My Night With Reg at Donmar Warehouse & Apollo Theatre
Skylight at Wyndham’s Theatre
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
David Calder for The Nether at Duke of York’s Theatre
Richard Goulding for King Charles III at Almeida Theatre & Wyndham’s Theatre
John Light for Taken At Midnight at Theatre Royal Haymarket
Nathaniel Parker for Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies at Aldwych Theatre
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Phoebe Fox for A View From The Bridge at Young Vic & Wyndham’s Theatre
The Girls playing Iris for The Nether at Duke of York’s Theatre
Angela Lansbury for Blithe Spirit at Gielgud Theatre
Lydia Wilson for King Charles III at Almeida Theatre & Wyndham’s Theatre
WHITE LIGHT AWARD FOR BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
Jon Clark for King Charles III at Almeida Theatre & Wyndham’s Theatre
Paule Constable and David Plater for Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies at Aldwych Theatre
Howard Harrison for City Of Angels at Donmar Warehouse
Jan Versweyveld for A View From The Bridge at the Young Vic & Wyndham’s Theatre
BEST SOUND DESIGN
Tom Gibbons for A View From The Bridge at the Young Vic & Wyndham’s Theatre
Matt McKenzie for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre and Harold Pinter Theatre
Gareth Owen for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
Brian Ronan for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
BEST ENTERTAINMENT AND FAMILY
Dance ‘Til Dawn at Aldwych Theatre
Hetty Feather at Vaudeville Theatre
La Soirée at La Soirée Spiegeltent
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Rob Jones for City Of Angels at Donmar Warehouse
Christopher Oram for Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies at Aldwych Theatre
Paul Tazewell for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
Alejo Vietti for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
XL VIDEO AWARD FOR BEST SET DESIGN
Bunny Christie for Made In Dagenham at Adelphi Theatre
Es Devlin for The Nether at Duke of York’s Theatre
Rob Jones for City Of Angels at Donmar Warehouse
Jan Versweyveld for A View From A Bridge at Young Vic & Wyndham’s Theatre
BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION
32 Rue Vandenbranden by Peeping Tom at Barbican
Mats Ek’s Juliet And Romeo by Royal Swedish Ballet at Sadler’s Wells
Tabac Rouge by Compagnie Du Hanneton/James Thiérrée at Sadler’s Wells
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE
Christopher Wheeldon for The Winter’s Tale at Royal Opera House
Crystal Pite for her choreography in the productions of The Associates – A Picture Of You Falling, The Tempest Replica and Polaris at Sadler’s Wells
Rocio Molina for Bosque Ardora at Barbican
The Elders Project as part of the Elixir Festival at Sadler’s Wells
VIRGIN ATLANTIC BEST NEW PLAY
King Charles III at Almeida Theatre & Wyndham’s Theatre
The Nether at Duke of York’s Theatre
Taken At Midnight at Theatre Royal Haymarket
Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies at Aldwych Theatre
Richard Armitage for The Crucible at Old Vic
James McAvoy for The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Studio 1
Tim Pigott-Smith for King Charles III at Almeida Theatre & Wyndham’s Theatre
Mark Strong for A View From The Bridge at Young Vic & Wyndham’s Theatre
Gillian Anderson for A Streetcar Named Desire at Young Vic
Kristin Scott Thomas for Electra at Old Vic
Imelda Staunton for Good People at Hampstead Theatre & Noël Coward Theatre
Penelope Wilton for Taken At Midnight at Theatre Royal Haymarket
THIS MORNING AUDIENCE AWARD
Billy Elliot The Musical at Victoria Palace Theatre
Jersey Boys at Piccadilly Theatre
Matilda The Musical at Cambridge Theatre
Wicked at Apollo Victoria Theatre
BEST NEW COMEDY
Handbagged at Vaudeville Theatre
The Play That Goes Wrong at Duchess Theatre
Shakespeare In Love at Noël Coward Theatre
MAGIC RADIO BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL
Cats at London Palladium
City Of Angels at Donmar Warehouse
The Gershwins’ Porgy And Bess at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Miss Saigon at Prince Edward Theatre
BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION
Benvenuto Cellini at London Coliseum
Dialogues Des Carmélites at Royal Opera House
Die Frau Ohne Schatten at Royal Opera House
The Mastersingers Of Nuremberg at London Coliseum
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA
Jonas Kaufmann for Andrea Chénier and Manon Lescaut at Royal Opera House
Richard Jones for his direction of The Girl Of The Golden West, The Mastersingers Of Nuremberg and Rodelinda at London Coliseum
Royal Opera House and Early Opera Company for their offsite programme at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and Roundhouse
Welsh National Opera Chorus for Moses Und Aron at Royal Opera House
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AN AFFILIATE THEATRE
Bull at The Maria at Young Vic
Four Minutes Twelve Seconds at Hampstead Downstairs
Juma Sharkah for her performance in Liberian Girl at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court
Tanya Moodie for her performances in Intimate Apparel at Park Theatre and The House That Will Not Stand at Tricycle Theatre
BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER
Jerry Mitchell for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels The Musical at Savoy Theatre
Annie-B Parsons for Here Lies Love at National Theatre, Dorfman
Josh Prince for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
Sergio Trujillo for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
Rupert Goold for King Charles III at Almeida Theatre & Wyndham’s Theatre
Jeremy Herrin for Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies at Aldwych Theatre
Josie Rourke for City Of Angels at Donmar Warehouse
Ivo Van Hove for A View From The Bridge at the Young Vic & Wyndham’s Theatre
AUTOGRAPH SOUND AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC
The Orchestra for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim for Here Lies Love at National Theatre, Dorfman
David Bryan, Joe DiPietro, Tim Sutton and the Memphis Band for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
Ray Davies for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Rolan Bell for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
George Maguire for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre and Harold Pinter Theatre
Ian McIntosh for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
Jason Pennycooke for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Samantha Bond for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels The Musical at Savoy Theatre
Haydn Gwynne for Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown The Musical at Playhouse Theatre
Nicole Scherzinger for Cats at London Palladium
Lorna Want for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Jon Jon Briones for Miss Saigon at Prince Edward Theatre
John Dagleish for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre
Killian Donnelly for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
Brandon Victor Dixon for The Scottsboro Boys at Garrick Theatre
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Gemma Arterton for Made In Dagenham at Adelphi Theatre
Katie Brayben for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
Tamsin Greig for Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown The Musical at Playhouse Theatre
Beverley Knight for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
MASTERCARD BEST NEW MUSICAL
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
Here Lies Love at National Theatre, Dorfman
Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre