West End transfer wins top prizes

The night’s single biggest winner was “Hairspray,” but an unusually wide spread of wins at Sunday night’s Laurence Olivier Awards was matched by some high-profile shutouts at the 32nd edition of London’s top legit honors.

The West End transfer of the enduring Gotham hit translated four of its record-breaking 11 nominations into wins, with Oliviers for musical, actress (Leanne Jones), actor (Michael Ball) and supporting performance in a musical (Tracie Bennett).

That gives “Hairspray” a perfect score, winning the top tuner prize in every British awards roundup, including the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Whatsonstage awards — and bucking the London trend of giving short shrift to U.S. hits.

The dominance of “Hairspray” led to upsets in some of the 23 categories, however. Rob Ashford’s highly regarded Donmar Warehouse revival of “Parade” was locked out in all seven of its nominated categories, while “The Lord of the Rings” failed to convert any of its five noms to wins.

No single play emerged as the big winner in a year in which high critical praise for several shows was matched by sellout attendance. Several nods went to National Theater productions, which crowned its achievements with seven awards.

The National’s runaway hit, “War Horse,” for which a fall return engagement has already been announced, won for its set design by Rae Smith and Handspring Puppet Co., as well as for Toby Sedgwick’s choreography. Marianne Elliott’s production of “Saint Joan” drew the kudos for revival and sound (Paul Arditti with Jocelyn Pook); Rory Kinnear received supporting perf in a play honors, and Vicki Mortimer won for costumes for “The Man of Mode”; and Ayub Khan-Din’s boisterous study of marital craziness in an Asian family, “Rafta, Rafta,” took new comedy. 

The fiercest contests this year were for the major acting prizes. Kristin Scott Thomas faced down stiff competish to take the actress award for her Mme. Arkardina in “The Seagull.” Win should prove useful for producer Sonia Friedman, who will bring Ian Rickson’s Royal Court production of the Christopher Hampton adaptation to Broadway in September. 

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s actor win for his powerhouse performance in the title role in “Othello” will stoke industry rumors about a Broadway run for the SRO Donmar Warehouse production.

“Plans are under way,” helmer Michael Grandage told Daily Variety. “But Chiwetel’s commitments mean such a move will be more than a year away.”

Ejiofor’s heavyweight rivals included Ian McKellen (“King Lear”), Patrick Stewart (“Macbeth”) and Mark Rylance (“Boeing-Boeing”), the latter two productions both Broadway-bound in spring. “Macbeth,” however, did not go away emptyhanded thanks to wins for Rupert Goold’s direction and Howard Harrison’s lighting.

Play plaudits went to Simon McBurney and Complicite for “A Disappearing Number,” a meditation on meanings in mathematics. The production played a limited run at the Barbican and will return in September following an international tour.

The other big winner was the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, which staged a clean sweep, bagging all four prizes in the dance and opera categories.

Andrew Lloyd Webber received a special award to commemorate his achievements over the past few decades as well as recognizing his recent role in “bringing theater to new audiences the world over.” The composer-producer has been a key figure behind the use of TV reality shows to cast and promote West End revivals including “The Sound of Music” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

The awards were presented at Grosvenor House, Park Lane.

And the winners are:

MUSICAL
“Hairspray,” book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, based upon the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters

PLAY
“A Disappearing Number,” by Simon McBurney and CompliciteNEW COMEDY
“Rafta, Rafta,” by Ayub Khan-Din, based on “All in Good Time” by Bill Naughton

REVIVAL
“Saint Joan,” by George Bernard Shaw

ACTOR IN A PLAY
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “Othello”

ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Kristin Scott Thomas, “The Seagull”

ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Leanne Jones, “Hairspray”

ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Michael Ball, “Hairspray”

SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY
Rory Kinnear, “The Man of Mode”

SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Tracie Bennett, “Hairspray”

NEWCOMER IN A PLAY
Tom Hiddleston, “Cymbeline”

MUSICAL REVIVAL
“The Magic Flute – Impempe Yomlingo,” adapted from Mozart by Mark Dornford-May, words and music by Mandisi Dyantyis, Mbali Kgosidintsi, Pauline Malefane and Nolufefe Mtshabe

DIRECTOR
Rupert Goold, “Macbeth”

CHOREOGRAPHY
Toby Sedgwick, “War Horse”

SETS
“War Horse,” Rae Smith and Handspring Puppet Co.

COSTUMES
“The Man of Mode,” Vicki Mortimer

LIGHTING
“Macbeth,” Howard Harrison

SOUND
“Saint Joan,” Paul Arditti with music by Jocelyn Pook

ACHIEVEMENT IN AN AFFILIATE THEATER
“Gone Too Far,” Royal Court Upstairs

NEW DANCE PRODUCTION
“Jewels,” Royal Ballet

ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE
Royal Ballet Company for “Jewels”

NEW OPERA PRODUCTION
“Pelleas et Melisande,” Royal Opera

ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA
Natalie Dessay, “La Fille du Regiment,” Royal Opera

SPECIAL AWARD
Andrew Lloyd Webber

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