Shows collect six awards each at Aussie kudos

SYDNEY — Tuner “Wicked” and Sydney Theater Company’s epic play “The War of the Roses” swept the ninth Helpmann Awards at the Sydney Opera House on Monday, collecting six awards each including best musical and best play, respectively.

Helmer Neil Armfield’s “Billy Budd” for Opera Australia collected four trophies, including the opera nod, on a night where numerous family groups were lauded for their work across live music, opera, dance, tuners and stage plays.

Wins for “Wicked,” produced in Oz by the Gordon Frost Organization, went to male supporting actor Rob Guest, who died during the show’s Melbourne season, and to members of the Broadway creative team: designer Eugene Lee, costumer Susan Hilferty, choreographer Wayne Cilento and director Lisa Leguillou (who was assistant director of the Gotham incarnation).

“War of the Roses” collected director kudos for Benedict Andrews as well as thesping laurels for lead actress Marta Dusseldorp and supporting actor Ewen Leslie, plus design trophies for lighting designer Nick Schlieper and sound designer Max Lyandvert.

Ben Winspear won actor in a play for Company B’s “Baghdad Wedding,” while ex-STC topper Robyn Nevin beat out Cate Blanchett in “War of the Roses” to collect the actress kudo for her role in STC’s “Women of Troy,” directed by Barrie Kosky.

Melbourne theater companies MTC and Malthouse were overlooked in the drama categories, the prizes for which all went to Sydney’s STC and Company B.

Actor, director and theater company founder John Bell received from his wife and creative partner Anna Volska a prestigious J.C. Williamson award for his contribution to the nation’s creative life. Kudo is named in honor of the Aussie theater pioneer.

Orchestra heavy-handedly played off numerous winners during the night, angering some of them. Four-and-a-half-hour kudocast (with a 35-minute break) has grown significantly in nine years, showcasing an embarrassment of riches not just from the major tuners but ballet, contempo dance, comedy, and physical theater.

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