‘Lion,’ ‘Spend’ top Oliviers

National reigns over noms

LONDON — An American behemoth will square off against a small British upstart as Disney’s “The Lion King” and homegrown English biomusical “Spend Spend Spend” each received eight nominations Thursday for Laurence Olivier Awards, saluting achievement in theater, opera and dance during the past season.

The winners will be announced at a lunchtime ceremony at the Lyceum Theater Feb. 18, with televised excerpts from the show to air two nights later on the BBC.

The two musicals — one ripe for international export, the other specifically local in its appeal — will duke it out in six categories, including director (“Lion King’s” Julie Taymor vs. “Spend’s” Jeremy Sams), actress in a musical (Josette Bushell-Mingo in “Lion King” vs. Barbara Dickson and Rachel Leskovac, both from “Spend”), choreography, lighting and sets.

For what it’s worth, “Spend Spend Spend” took the Evening Standard Drama Awards’ top musical prize in November, while “Lion King” was honored with a special award.

They are joined in the race for musical by “Mamma Mia!,” the ABBA-scored mother-daughter tale that has been the season’s surprise smash, and “Honk! The Ugly Duckling,” the Royal National Theater premiere of the long-gestating English musical by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

The National, as usual, held sway over the nominations, with 21 citations. Artistic director Trevor Nunn is nominated in the helmer category for his work on three productions from his ambitious season: “Troilus and Cressida,” “Summerfolk” and “The Merchant of Venice.”

Nunn goes up against Taymor and Sams, as well as David Leveaux, for his revival of Tom Stoppard’s 1982 “The Real Thing,” which reaches Broadway’s Belasco Theater late in March.

Stephen Dillane and Jennifer Ehle, the leads in Stoppard’s play, are up for actor and actress. Dillane’s competish includes Broadway’s current Mozart, Michael Sheen, for “Look Back in Anger,” as well as Henry Goodman (“The Merchant of Venice”), Roger Allam (“Summerfolk”) and Antony Sher (“The Winter’s Tale”).

Still in her late 20s, Ehle is the junior nominee amid a best actress quartet embracing Alison Steadman (“The Memory of Water”), Janie Dee (“Comic Potential”) and Maggie Smith (“The Lady in the Van”).

Alan Bennett’s first new play in eight years, “The Lady in the Van,” joins Liz Lochhead’s “Perfect Days” in the race for new play, against three American competitors: Martin Sherman’s “Rose,” Richard Nelson’s “Goodnight Children Everywhere” and Richard Greenberg’s “Three Days of Rain.” The first two had world premieres in England.

A sellout over two separate runs at the Donmar Warehouse, Greenberg’s play marks the most successful Off Broadway transfer to London that Blighty has seen in years.

The populist Broadway success “Defending the Caveman,” by Rob Becker, is a nominee for best entertainment — traditionally the Olivier committee’s catch-all category — while the comedy nominees, as has long been the case, are three plays with serious aspirations: Alan Ayckbourn’s “Comic Potential,” Ronald Harwood’s “Quartet” and Shelagh Stephenson’s “The Memory of Water.”

Lighting designer Mark Henderson’s nomination must mark a record of sorts: He has been cited for seven separate productions.

A list of theater nominees follows.

ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Janie Dee, “Comic Potential”

Jennifer Ehle, “The Real Thing”

Maggie Smith, “The Lady in the Van”

Alison Steadman, “The Memory of Water”

ACTOR IN A PLAY

Roger Allam, “Summerfolk”

Stephen Dillane, “The Real Thing”

Henry Goodman, “The Merchant of Venice”

Michael Sheen, “Look Back in Anger”

Antony Sher, “The Winter’s Tale”

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Roger Allam, “Money”

Michael Bryant, “Summerfolk”

Ron Cook, “Juno and the Paycock”

Michael Williams, “The Forest”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Anne-Marie Duff, “Collected Stories”

Patricia Hodge, “Money”

Estelle Kohler, “The Winter’s Tale”

Kika Markham, “Song at Twilight”

MUSICAL

“Honk! The Ugly Duckling,” music by George Stiles, book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen

“Mamma Mia!,” music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and some songs with Stig Anderson, book by Catherine Johnson

“Spend Spend Spend,” book and lyrics by Steve Brown and Justin Greene, music by Brown, based on the book by Viv Nicholson and Stephen Smith

“The Lion King,” music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice, additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor, Hans Zimmer, book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, adapted from the screenplay by Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton

OUTSTANDING MUSICAL PRODUCTION

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (Open Air Theater)

“Candide,” music by Leonard Bernstein, book adapted from Voltaire by Hugh Wheeler, in a new version by John Caird, lyrics by Richard Wilbur, additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Leonard Bernstein (Royal National Theater/Olivier)

“Dick Whittington,” devised by Gillian Lynne, Stephen Clark and Chris Walker (Sadler’s Wells)

“The Pajama Game,” book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, based on Richard Bissell’s novel “7-1/2 Cents,” music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (Victoria Palace)

PLAY

“Goodnight Children Everywhere,” by Richard Nelson

“Perfect Days,” by Liz Lochhead

“Rose,” by Martin Sherman

“The Lady in the Van,” by Alan Bennett

“Three Days of Rain,” by Richard Greenberg

COMEDY

“Comic Potential,” by Alan Ayckbourn

“Quartet,” by Ronald Harwood

“The Memory of Water,” by Shelagh Stephenson

ENTERTAINMENT

“Al Murray — The Pub Landlord”

“Defending the Caveman,” by Rob Becker

“Fascinating Aida — Barefaced Chic”

“Soul Train,” devised by Mark Clements and Michael Vivian

ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Rob Edwards, “The Lion King”

Daniel Evans, “Candide”

Ben Keaton, “Animal Crackers”

Gus MacGregor, “Buddy”

Simon Russell Beale, “Candide”

ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Josette Bushell-Mingo, “The Lion King”

Barbara Dickson, “Spend Spend Spend”

Rachel Leskovac, “Spend Spend Spend”

Siobhan McCarthy, “Mamma Mia!”

SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL

Joseph Alessi, “Animal Crackers”

Jenny Galloway, “Mamma Mia!”

Steven Houghton, “Spend Spend Spend”

Louise Plowright, “Mamma Mia!”

Denis Quilley, “Candide”

DIRECTOR

David Leveaux, “The Real Thing”

Trevor Nunn, “Summerfolk,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “Troilus and Cressida”

Jeremy Sams, “Spend Spend Spend”

Julie Taymor, “The Lion King”

CHOREOGRAPHER

Peter Darling, “Candide”

Garth Fagan, “The Lion King”

Craig Revel Horwood, “Spend Spend Spend”

Stephen Mear, “Soul Train”

SET DESIGN

Lez Brotherston, “Spend Spend Spend”

Maria Björnson, “Plenty”

Rob Howell, “Richard III,” “Troilus and Cressida,” “Vassa”

Richard Hudson, “The Lion King”

LIGHTING DESIGN

Howard Harrison, “Private Lives,” “Sleep With Me,” “The Tempest”

Mark Henderson, “Plenty,” “Spend Spend Spend,” “Suddenly Last Summer,” “The Forest,” “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “The Real Thing” “Vassa”

Donald Holder, “The Lion King”

Peter Mumford, “Collected Stories,” “Richard III,” “Summerfolk,” “The Merchant of Venice”

COSTUME DESIGN

Rob Howell, “Money,” “Troilus and Cressida”

Robert Jones, “The Winter’s Tale”

John Napier with Elise Napier, “Candide”

Julie Taymor, “The Lion King”

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