Stage honors filled with surprises
The 31st Laurence Olivier legit awards will be remembered as the night of the giant-killers.
Beating out a bunch of commercial behemoths, the intimate revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1984 musical “Sunday in the Park With George” was the runaway winner on Sunday with five nods. And there were upsets elsewhere in the 23 categories.
London’s record year for tuners had produced an unusually strong set of contenders. “Monty Python’s Spamalot” led the charge with seven nominations, with “Wicked,” “Evita,” “Porgy and Bess,” “The Sound of Music” and “Avenue Q” all jockeying for position. All went away empty-handed.
Produced by Boyett Ostar, David Babani and Danielle Tarento for Chocolate Factory Prods., Caro Newling for Neal Street Prods. and Mark Rubinstein, “Sunday in the Park” won for musical production, lead actor (Daniel Evans) and actress (Jenna Russell), set design and lighting.
The Sam Buntrock-directed production, which began at London’s tiny Menier Chocolate Factory before transferring to the West End, is expected to hit Broadway next season, playing at Roundabout’s Studio 54.
New musical nod went to George C. Wolfe’s production at the National Theater of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s “Caroline, or Change.” Show also has taken the tuner gong in the Evening Standard and Critics Circle awards.
Trophies for choreography and supporting performance in a musical went to Javier De Frutos and Sheila Hancock, respectively, for “Cabaret.”
Even in the drama categories there were upsets. Play prize went to David Harrower’s searing drama “Blackbird,” which opens in New York in the spring in a Joe Mantello production for Manhattan Theater Club.
It edged out two front-runners, Peter Morgan’s Broadway-bound “Frost/Nixon” and Tom Stoppard’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The former failed to convert any of its three noms to wins, but the four-times nominated “Rock ‘n’ Roll” picked up the actor nod for Rufus Sewell.
That production originated at the Royal Court, one of several Arts Council-subsidized theaters that scored in London’s leading legit honors.
In addition to musical, the National won three other awards: Jim Norton took supporting actor in a play for Conor McPherson’s “The Seafarer”; Gareth Fry drew the sound nod for Katie Mitchell’s experimental “Waves”; and Alison Chitty won for the costumes in “The Voysey Inheritance.”
The Royal Shakespeare Company also made a strong showing. Dominic Cooke’s staging of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” took both directing and revival honors, while Tamsin Grieg drew actress kudos for “Much Ado About Nothing.”
There were even surprises in the opera categories. English National Opera won both opera awards for its production of Leos Janacek’s “Jenufa.” And the special Olivier went not to a legit player or org but to international opera singer John Tomlinson for his definitive interpretation of a wide variety of bass roles.
Awards were presented at Grosvenor House, Park Lane.
And the winners are…
“Caroline, or Change,” book and lyrics by Tony Kushner, music by Jeanine Tesori
“Sunday in the Park with George,” music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine
“Blackbird” by David Harrower
“John Buchan’s The 39 Steps” adapted by Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon
“The Crucible,” by Arthur Miller
ACTOR IN A PLAY
Rufus Sewell, “Rock ‘n’Roll”
ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Tamsin Greig, “Much Ado About Nothing”
ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Daniel Evans, “Sunday in the Park with George”
ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Jenna Russell, “Sunday in the Park with George”
SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY
Jim Norton, “The Seafarer”
SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Sheila Hancock, “Cabaret”
Dominic Cooke, “The Crucible”
Javier De Frutos, “Cabaret”
“Sunday in the Park With George,” David Farley and Timothy Bird
“The Voysey Inheritance,” Alison Chitty
“Sunday in the Park With George,” Natasha Chivers and Mike Robertson
“Waves,” Gareth Fry
ACHIEVEMENT IN AN AFFILIATE THEATER
“Pied Piper,” Theater Royal, Stratford East
NEW DANCE PRODUCTION
Chroma, Royal Ballet
ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE
Carlos Acosta for his program of work and performances at Sadler’s Wells
NEW OPERA PRODUCTION
“Jenufa,” English National Opera
ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA
Amanda Roocroft, “Jenufa”