'Woman,' 'Poppins,' 'Producers' dominate

LONDON — The nominations for the 29th annual Laurence Olivier Awards, honoring London’s best of 2004 in theater, opera and dance, make one thing blazingly clear: This year, bigger was apparently best.

That helps explain the domination of the West End’s so-called “big three musicals” — in order of opening, “The Woman in White,” “The Producers” and “Mary Poppins” — which bowed within three months of each other last fall.

At one point, there was talk of “Poppins,” which opened Dec. 15, being pushed to consideration next year, to avoid battling “The Producers.” But that idea was tabled; a “Poppins” win in 2006 could hardly be guaranteed against “Billy Elliot, the Musical,” among others.

With 22 nods in total, including nine for “Poppins” and eight for “The Producers,” the trio of tuners makes up the entire musical category as well as several performance awards. The result has shut out the equally worthy casts of “Sweeney Todd,” “Grand Hotel” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” suggesting original musicals held sway with voters over revivals.

Karen Mann, for instance, seemed likely to be acknowledged for her trumpet-toting Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd,” as did that show’s director (and designer), John Doyle. But the actress in a musical lineup doesn’t even field four candidates, settling instead on Maria Friedman (“Woman in White”), Leigh Zimmerman (“The Producers”), and Laura Michelle Kelly (“Mary Poppins”).

The musical actor category stretched to a proper quartet of nominees. (Some years, there are five.) Paul Hegarty’s ravenous Sweeney faces Gavin Lee’s acrobatic Bert in “Mary Poppins” and both Nathan Lane and Lee Evans from “The Producers.”

But the supporting musical perf, male or female — a lineup potentially overflowing with prospects in such a bustling musical year — yielded only three names, all men: Michael Crawford (“Woman in White”), Conleth Hill (“Producers”), and David Haig (“Mary Poppins”).

An unusually narrow list of nominees extends to the plays as well, which doesn’t cast the Oliviers’ typically — often eccentrically — wide net. Most unexpected choices were Marina Carr’s largely panned “By the Bog of Cats” among the play lineup; and set designer William Dudley for “Woman in White,” whose projection-heavy design has been highly controversial.

The other play choices were mostly as expected: David Eldridge’s “Festen,” which led the nonmusical roster with five nods; Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys,” close behind with four; and Edward Albee’s “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?,” with three Olivier nods.

Notably absent: Conor McPherson’s Broadway-bound “Shining City” and its star, Stanley Townsend, who was on the shortlist for the Evening Standard Theater Awards last month. (McPherson’s “The Weir” won the 1999 Olivier for play.)

Also missing, with the exception of “Producers” import Lane, are any of the year’s visiting Americans to the London stage. That roster includes “Bog of Cats” star Holly Hunter; “Fully Committed’s” virtuosic Mark Setlock; Christian Slater, of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”; “Oleanna” adversaries Aaron Eckhart and Julia Stiles; and singer Barbara Cook, whose recent concert show made two separate trips to Blighty.

Both Evening Standard winners for actor and actress are up for Oliviers, as well. Richard Griffiths (“History Boys”) squares off against Jonathan Pryce (“The Goat”), Michael Gambon (“Endgame”), and Ben Whishaw, the wiry thesp who at 23 starred last May in Trevor Nunn’s modern-dress “Hamlet.”

“Suddenly Last Summer’s” Victoria Hamilton makes the actress list alongside Clare Higgins (“Hecuba”) and two nominees from left field: Anna Maxwell Martin (“His Dark Materials”) and Caroline O’Connor (“Bombshells”).

Notching up her 13th Olivier nod is Judi Dench for her perf as the Countess of Rousillon in “All’s Well That Ends Well,” also up for play revival. In the category of supporting perf, male or female, Dench faces off against Samuel Barnett (“The History Boys”), Amanda Harris (“Othello”), and Eddie Redmayne (“The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?”)

In a category that allows both plays and musicals, the choices for director are Richard Eyre (“Mary Poppins”), Nicholas Hytner (“History Boys”), Susan Stroman (“Producers”), and Rufus Norris (“Festen”).

While the National Theater fielded eight nominees this year — largely for “The History Boys” — that’s a notable falloff from last year’s 20 and 21 the year before.

Prizes will be awarded Feb. 20 in a dinner ceremony at the Hilton Hotel that, like last year, will not be televised. Actor-director Richard Wilson is the host.

NOMINATIONS FOR THE 2005 LAURENCE OLIVIER AWARDS

ACTRESS

Victoria Hamilton for “Suddenly Last Summer” at the Albery
Clare Higgins for “Hecuba” at the Donmar Warehouse
Anna Maxwell Martin for “His Dark Materials” at the Olivier
Caroline O’Connor for “Bombshells” at the Arts

ACTOR

Michael Gambon for “Endgame” at the Albery
Richard Griffiths for “The History Boys” at the Lyttelton
Jonathan Pryce for “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” at the Almeida and Apollo
Ben Whishaw for “Hamlet” at The Old Vic

PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Samuel Barnett for “The History Boys” at the Lyttelton
Judi Dench for “All’s Well That Ends Well” at the Gielgud
Amanda Harris for OTHELLO at Trafalgar Studios
Eddie Redmayne for “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” at the Almeida and Apollo

NEW PLAY

“By the Bog of Cats” by Marina Carr at Wyndhams
“Festen” A dramatisation by David Eldridge Based on the Dogme film and play by Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov and Bo hr. Hansen at the Almeida and the Lyric
“The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” by Edward Albee at the Almeida and the Apollo
“The History Boys” by Alan Bennett at the Lyttelton

REVIVAL

“All’s Well That Ends Well” by William Shakespeare at the Gielgud
“Endgame” by Samuel Beckett at the Albery
“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare at The Old Vic
“Journey’s End” by R C Sherriff at the Comedy, Playhouse and Duke of York’s

NEW MUSICAL

“Mary Poppins” a musical based on the stories of PL Travers and the Walt Disney Film, Original music and lyrics by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman; book by Julian Fellowes; new songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe; co- created by Cameron Mackintosh at the Prince Edward
“The Producers” book by Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan, music and lyrics by Mel Brooks and by special arrangement with StudioCanal at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
“The Woman in White” a new musical freely adapted from the classic novel by Wilkie Collins, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by David Zippel, book by Charlotte Jones at the Palace

OUTSTANDING MUSICAL PRODUCTION

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, book by Burt Shevelove & Larry Gelbart, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim at the Olivier
“Grand Hotel” book by Luther Davis, Music & lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, additional music and lyrics by Maury Yeston based on Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel at the Donmar Warehouse
“Simply Heavenly” book and lyrics by Langston Hughes, music by David Martin at Trafalgar Studios
“Sweeney Todd” music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim book by Hugh Wheeler from an adaptation by Christopher Bond at Trafalgar Studios and the New Ambassadors

ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Maria Friedman for “The Woman in White” at the Palace
Leigh Zimmerman for “The Producers” at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Laura Michelle Kelly for “Mary Poppins” at the Prince Edward

ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Lee Evans for “The Producers” at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Paul Hegarty for “Sweeney Todd” at Trafalgar Studios and New Ambassadors
Nathan Lane for “The Producers” at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Gavin Lee for “Mary Poppins” at the Prince
Edward

PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Michael Crawford for “The Woman in White” at the Palace
David Haig for “Mary Poppins” at the Prince Edward
Conleth Hill for “The Producers” at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

DIRECTOR

Richard Eyre for “Mary Poppins” at the Prince Edward
Nicholas Hytner for “The History Boys” at the Lyttelton
Rufus Norris for “Festen” at the Almeida and Lyric
Susan Stroman for “The Producers” at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER

Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear for “Mary Poppins” at the Prince Edward
Adam Cooper for “Grand Hotel” at the Donmar Warehouse
Susan Stroman for “The Producers” at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

LIGHTING DESIGN

“All’s Well That Ends Well” designed by Paul Pyant at the Gielgud
“Festen” designed by Jean Kalman at the Almeida and Lyric
“His Dark Materials” designed by Paule Constable at the Olivier
“Mary Poppins” designed by Howard Harrison at the Prince Edward

SET DESIGN

“Festen” designed by Ian McNeil at the Almeida and Lyric
“His Dark Materials” designed by Giles Cadle at the Olivier
“Mary Poppins” designed by Bob Crowley at the Prince Edward
“Suddenly Last Summer” designed by Christopher Oram at the Albery
“The Woman in White” designed by William Dudley at the Palace

COSTUME DESIGN

“All’s Well That Ends Well” designed by Deirdre Clancey at the Gielgud
“Hamlet” designed by John Gunter and Mark Bouman at The Old Vic
“Mary Poppins” designed by Bob Crowley at the Prince Edward
“The Producers” designed by William Ivey Long at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

SOUND DESIGN

“Festen” designed by Paul Arditti at the Almeida and Lyric
“Suddenly Last Summer” designed by Adam Cork at the Albery
“The Woman in White” designed by Mick Potter at the Palace

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT OR PERFORMANCE IN AN AFFILIATE THEATRE

Kevin Harvey for his performance in “Yellowman” at Hampstead
Aidan McArdle for his performance in “The Shadow of a Gunman” at the Tricycle
Andrew Scott for his performance in “A Girl in a Car with a Man” at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court
The Tricycle Theatre for its production of “Guantanamo”

NEW OPERA PRODUCTION

The Royal Opera’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” at the Royal Opera House
Les Arts Florissants, Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu, Théâtre Du Châtelet and Bite 04’s “Les Paladins” at the Barbican
The Royal Opera’s “Peter Grimes” at the Royal Opera House

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA

Ben Heppner for The Royal Opera’s “Peter Grimes”
John McFarlane for his designs of The Royal Opera’s “Peter Grimes” and “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” at the Royal Opera House
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House under the musical direction of Antonio Pappano for their season’s work
Thomas Adès and the Royal Opera House for the world premiere of “The Tempest”

NEW DANCE PRODUCTION

Northern Ballet Theatre’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Sadler’s Wells
Royal New Zealand Ballet’s “Milagros” at Sadler’s Wells
Royal New Zealand Ballet’s “Romeo and Juliet” at Sadler’s Wells
Rambert Dance Company’s “Swamp” at Sadler’s Wells

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE

Julien Macdonald for his costume designs for Richard Alston Dance Company’s “Shimmer” at Sadler’s Wells
San Francisco Ballet for their season at Sadler’s Wells
The Royal Ballet for their recreation of “Sylvia” at the Royal Opera House
Rambert Dance Company for the range and quality of new work in their November season at Sadler’s Well

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