Brooks finds one enchanted Evening
LONDON — Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” the Broadway musical transplant that just opened to raves on the West End, and “The History Boys,” Alan Bennett’s affectionate portrait of life in English academe, were named Monday the year’s best musical and play, respectively, at the 50th annual Evening Standard Theater Awards.
“History Boys” star Richard Griffiths won kudos as actor for his portrayal of an inspirational teacher with sexually impure tendencies. The play has been extended at the National through April and could arrive on Broadway in spring 2006 as part of an international tour.
Actress trophy went to Victoria Hamilton, the mesmerizing centerpiece of Michael Grandage’s since-closed revival of Tennessee Williams’ “Suddenly Last Summer.”
Prizes for direction and design went to “Festen,” helmer Rufus Norris’ stage transcription of the Dogma film.
The design citation for “Festen” was shared by set designer Ian MacNeil, sound designer Paul Arditti and lighting designer Jean Kalman.
The newcomer award went to Eddie Redmayne, who played the son in the London preem of Edward Albee’s “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” Redmayne, the only winner not present at the lunchtime ceremony at the National Theater, accepted his prize by videotape from Australia, where he is shooting a film.
The Charles Wintour Bursary for New Playwriting went to Northern Irish writer Owen McCafferty for “Scenes From the Big Picture,” performed two seasons ago at the National. Prize was accompanied by a check for £30,000 ($57,700), funds sufficient, McCafferty laughed, to help reach his goal of “earning enough money to give up playwriting.”
A longer-than-usual ceremony was extended by three special awards, to playwright Harold Pinter, thesp Judi Dench and the National Theater.
The last prize was accepted jointly by Nicholas Hytner, the National’s current a.d., as well as his three living predecessors: Trevor Nunn, Richard Eyre and Peter Hall.
Accepting her trophy, Dench spoke of the joy that has come with “47 years of doing a job I absolutely adore.”
The decision was made this year to shift the Standard kudofest from its traditional gala lunch at the Savoy Hotel to the National’s Olivier Theater, which holds hundreds more people. Expanded space meant readers of London’s afternoon newspaper were for the first time able to attend the gathering.
An edited version of the event, hosted by comedian Rory Bremner, will be broadcast Wednesday on ITV.