Opera guides National to Olivier nom lead

LONDON — The National Theater once again dominated the 2004 Laurence Olivier Award nominations, honoring the finest in London theater, opera, and dance during 2003. The South Bank complex garnered 20 noms — one fewer, actually, than it managed last year — including three of the four play nominees and the musical frontrunner, “Jerry Springer — The Opera.”

The nominees were announced Thursday, in advance of the Feb. 22 ceremony, which gives up its usual weekday lunch slot for a Sunday evening at the London Hilton. It is now in the exact middle of this year’s BAFTA and Oscar fetes.

“Jerry Springer,” the through-sung British musical treatment of American tabloid TV, is up for eight awards and can only benefit from a win, now that it has transferred from the National to the West End’s Cambridge Theater.

A more surprising eight-time nominee is the short-lived British preem of Broadway musical “Ragtime,” which goes head-to-head with “Jerry Springer” in numerous categories, including actor and actress in a musical and best director. “Caligula’s” Michael Grandage is, bizarrely, the only non-musical helmer in the latter category.

‘Pacific’s’ eight noms

Grandage is up against “Ragtime’s” Stafford Arima, “Jerry Springer’s” Stewart Lee and — another surprise — Chicagoan Gary Griffin. His Donmar revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures” is also up for eight prizes, including two for supporting perf, male or female, in a musical (Jerome Pradon and Richard Henders) — this despite very mixed reviews for the show last summer.

If the helmer quartet is notably offbeat, the actor and actress in a play lineups include numerous familiar names. Eileen Atkins, a potential Tony nominee for her Broadway perf in “The Retreat From Moscow,” is an Olivier nominee for her role as another abandoned wife in “Honour,” which ran last winter at the National’s Cottesloe. Atkins faces stiff competish from her “Gosford Park” co-star, Helen Mirren, in “Mourning Becomes Electra,” though that O’Neill revival’s director (Howard Davies) and actual leading lady (Eve Best) were oddly overlooked.

Kristin Scott Thomas is in the running for her Masha in “Three Sisters,” with Ann Mitchell (“Through the Leaves”) and Kelly Reilly, who has the title role in the Donmar’s “After Miss Julie,” completing the category.

Sheen, Branagh touted

The actor grouping includes Michael Sheen, who in November won the Evening Standard Theater Award for the same perf as Camus’ “Caligula.” Sheen faces off against Kenneth Branagh, for his National debut in David Mamet’s “Edmond”; Greg Hicks’ Coriolanus for the Royal Shakespeare Co.; TV name Matthew Kelly, for “Of Mice and Men”; and Roger Allam, who plays German chancellor Willy Brandt in “Democracy” (moving to the West End in April).

That Michael Frayn play is joined in the play race by two other National entries, Martin McDonagh’s “The Pillowman” and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s “Elmina’s Kitchen,” with the Royal Court’s “Hitchcock Blonde,” by Terry Johnson, completing the foursome.

Best revival pits “Caligula” against “Of Mice and Men,” “Mourning Becomes Electra” and “Absolutely! (perhaps),” last summer’s reclamation by American scribe Martin Sherman of Pirandello’s “Right You Are (if you think you are).”

Rounding out the new musical contenders is “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” the Broadway import whose two leading ladies, Amanda Holden and Maureen Lipman, go up against “Jerry Springer’s” Alison Jiear and previous Olivier winner Maria Friedman, who was a passionately sung Mother in “Ragtime.” “Millie” got five nods, including one for choreographer Rob Ashford, who already has a Tony for his work on the show.

‘Ragtime’ vs. ‘Jerry’ thesps

“Ragtime” leads Graham Bickley and Kevyn Morrow compete for actor in a musical against “Jerry Springer’s” Brooklyn-born star Michael Brandon and David Bedella, a fellow American expat from the same show.

Among various mini-shocks is Franco Zeffirelli’s work on “Absolutely! (perhaps),” in the race for best set, where “Caligula’s” Christopher Oram, failed to get a nom. (Oram did get a costume nom for “Power” at the National.)

And although the National certainly did impressively well, one has to wonder not just at the exclusion of “Mourning’s” Best but also Conleth Hill from “Democracy” as well as the entire cast of “The Pillowman” and everyone from Nicholas Hytner’s revelatory “Henry V” and Katie Mitchell’s “Three Sisters.” (Scott Thomas’ nod was for a separate West End production of the Chekhov play.)

Not for the first time, too, the Oliviers are mixing apples and oranges. Promising newcomer in an affiliate theater (there’s a mouthful) award pits two playwrights (Debbie Tucker Green for “Born Bad” and Lucy Prebble for “The Sugar Syndrome”) against two young actors (Tom Hardy for “In Arabia, We’d All Be Kings” and Ruth Negga for “Duck”).

And in the supporting musical performance award, male or female, four individuals are competing against the entire Chorus from “Jerry Springer — The Opera.”

And the nominees are…

NEW PLAY
“Democracy” by Michael Frayn at the Cottesloe
“Elmina’s Kitchen” by Kwame Kwei-Armah at the Cottesloe
“Hitchcock Blonde” by Terry Johnson at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs” at the Royal Court and the Lyric
“The Pillowman” by Martin McDonagh at the Cottesloe

REVIVAL
“Absolutely! (Perhaps)” by Luigi Pirandello in a new version by Martin Sherman at Wyndham’s
“Caligula” by Albert Camus in a new translation by David Greig at the Donmar Warehouse
“Mourning Becomes Electra” by Eugene O’Neill at the Lyttelton
“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck at the Savoy

NEW MUSICAL
“Jerry Springer – The Opera” –music by Richard Thomas, book and lyrics by Stewart Lee & Richard Thomas — at the Lyttelton and Cambridge
“Ragtime” –book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, based on the novel by E L Doctorow — at the Piccadilly
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” –book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan, new music by Jeanine Tesori, new lyrics by Dick Scanlan — at the Shaftesbury

OUTSTANDING MUSICAL PRODUCTION
“High Society” –music and lyrics by Cole Porter, book by Arthur Kopit — at the Open Air
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” –music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, book and lyrics by Tim Rice — at the New London
“Pacific Overtures” –music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by John Weidman, additional material by Hugh Wheeler — at the Donmar Warehouse
“Tell Me on a Sunday” –music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Don Black — at the Gielgud

ENTERTAINMENT
“Duckie’s C’est Barbican!” –devised and written by Mark Whitelaw, Ursula Martinez, Christopher Green, Marisa Carnesky, Francesca Baglione and Simon Vincenzi, scored by Ian Hill at The Pit
“One Last Flutter” –conceived by Fascinating Aida at the Comedy
“Jus’ Like That” written and created by John Fisher at the Garrick
“My Brilliant Divorce” by Geraldine Aron at the Apollo
“The Rat Pack – Live from Las Vegas” by Paul Walden, Mitch Sebastian and Derek Nicol at the Strand

ACTRESS
Eileen Atkins, “Honour” at the Cottesloe
Helen Mirren, “Mourning Becomes Electra” at the Lyttelton
Ann Mitchell, “Through The Leaves” at the Duchess
Kelly Reilly, “After Miss Julie” at the Donmar Warehouse
Kristin Scott Thomas, “Three Sisters” at the Playhouse

ACTOR
Roger Allam, “Democracy” at the Cottesloe
Kenneth Branagh, “Edmond” at the Olivier
Greg Hicks, “Coriolanus” at The Old Vic
Matthew Kelly, “Of Mice and Men” at the Savoy
Michael Sheen, “Caligula” at the Donmar Warehouse

PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Joe Dixon, “The Roman Actor” at the Gielgud
Oliver Ford Davies, “Absolutely! (Perhaps)” at Wyndham’s
Paul Hilton, “Mourning Becomes Electra” at the Lyttelton
Warren Mitchell, “The Price” at the Apollo

ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Maria Friedman, “Ragtime” at the Piccadilly
Amanda Holden, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at the Shaftesbury
Alison Jiear, “Jerry Springer – The Opera” at the Lyttelton and Cambridge
Maureen Lipman, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at the Shaftesbury

ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
David Bedella, “Jerry Springer – The Opera” at the Lyttelton and Cambridge
Graham Bickley, “Ragtime” at the Piccadilly
Michael Brandon, “Jerry Springer – The Opera” at the Lyttelton and Cambridge
Kevyn Morrow, “Ragtime” at the Piccadilly

PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Tracie Bennett, “High Society” at the Open Air
The Chorus of “Jerry Springer – The Opera” at the Lyttelton and Cambridge
Richard Henders, “Pacific Overtures” at the Donmar Warehouse
Jerome Pradon, “Pacific Overtures” at the Donmar Warehouse
Matthew White, “Ragtime” at the Piccadilly

DIRECTOR
Stafford Arima, “Ragtime” at the Piccadilly
Michael Grandage, “Caligula” at the Donmar Warehouse
Gary Griffin, “Pacific Overtures” at the Donmar Warehouse
Stewart Lee, “Jerry Springer – The Opera” at the Lyttelton and Cambridge

THEATER CHOREOGRAPHER
Jenny Arnold, “Jerry Springer – The Opera” at the Lyttelton and Cambridge
Rob Ashford, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at the Shaftesbury
Karen Bruce, “Pacific Overtures” at the Donmar Warehouse

SET DESIGN
“Absolutely! (Perhaps)” designed by Franco Zeffirelli at Wyndham’s
“Hitchcock Blonde” designed by William Dudley at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs” at the Royal Court and the Lyric
“Mourning Becomes Electra” designed by Bob Crowley at the Lyttelton

COSTUME DESIGN
“Absolutely! (Perhaps)” designed by Raimonda Gaetani at Wyndham’s
“Pacific Overtures” designed by Mara Blumenfeld at the Donmar Warehouse
“Power” designed by Christopher Oram at the Cottesloe
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” designed by Martin Pakledinaz at the Shaftesbury

LIGHTING DESIGN
“Hitchcock Blonde” designed by Simon Corder at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court and the Lyric
“Pacific Overtures” designed by Hugh Vanstone at the Donmar Warehouse
“Ragtime” designed by Howard Harrison at the Piccadilly

SOUND DESIGN
“Jerry Springer – The Opera” designed by Mike Walker at the Lyttelton and Cambridge
“Pacific Overtures” designed by Nick Lidster at the Donmar Warehouse
“Ragtime” designed by Peter Hylenski for Autograph at the Piccadilly
“The Pillowman” designed by Paul Arditti at the Cottesloe

MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER IN AN AFFILIATE THEATRE
Debbie Tucker Green, “Born Bad” at Hampstead
Lucy Prebble, “The Sugar Syndrome” at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court
Tom Hardy for his performance in “In Arabia, We’d All Be Kings” at Hampstead Theatre
Ruth Negga for her performance in “Duck” at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AN AFFILIATE THEATRE
The Young Vic for an audacious season under the artistic direction of David Lan
Tanika Gupta for “Fragile Land” at Hampstead Theatre and her adaptation of “Hobson’s Choice” at the Young Vic
The Almeida Theatre for its production of “The Lady From the Sea”
The Lyric Hammersmith for its production of “Pericles”

NEW OPERA PRODUCTION
English National Opera’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” at the Barbican
The Royal Opera’s “Madama Butterfly” at the Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera’s “Orlando” at the Royal Opera House
English National Opera’s “The Trojans (Part I and II)” at the London Coliseum

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA
Cristina Gallardo-Domas for The Royal Opera’s “Madama Butterfly” at the Royal Opera House
Simon Keenlyside for The Royal Opera’s “Hamlet” and “Die Zauberflote” at the Royal Opera House
Bejun Mehta for The Royal Opera’s “Orlando” at the Royal Opera House
Felicity Palmer for The Royal Opera’s “Elektra” and “Sweeney Todd” at the Royal Opera House

NEW DANCE PRODUCTION
Nederlands Dans Theater 2’s “Dream Play at Sadler’s Wells
George Piper Dances’ “Mesmerics” at Sadler’s Wells
Paul Taylor Dance Company’s “Promethan Fire” at Sadler’s Wells
“Broken Fall”, a George Piper Dances commission in association with The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE
Carlos Acosta for his “Tocororo – A Cuban Tale” at Sadler’s Wells
Thomas Edur and Agnes Oaks their performances in English National Ballet’s “2 HUMAN” at Sadler’s Wells
Javier De Frutos for his choreography of Rambert Dance Company’s “Elsa Canasta” at Sadler’s Wells
The dancers of Rambert Dance Company for their season at Sadler’s Wells

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