MLK drama defeats heavyweight plays for top prize

Gotham-based dramatist Katori Hall beat heavyweight play contenders “Jerusalem,” “Enron” and “Red” to the top play prize at the 2010 Laurence Olivier awards in London. The night’s other stand-out winner was U.S. tuner “Spring Awakening,” whose four awards – the most for any single production – included new musical.

Hall’s 85-minute two-hander “The Mountaintop,” set on the night of the assassination of Martin Luther King, is already eyeing a Broadway berth in common with “Red” already previewing there, “Enron” beginning previews Apr. 8 and “Jerusalem” lined up for a 2011 opening.

None of the Best Play rivals went away empty-handed. John Logan’s “Red” netted supporting actor for Eddie Redmayne, Rupert Goold won director for Lucy Prebble’s “Enron” and Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem” netted the lead actor trophy for runaway favorite Mark Rylance and a set design laurel for Ultz. In another U.S. win, Debbie Allen’s all-black “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,” another Main Stem vet, picked up the revival title in a fiercely contested field.

Allen’s hottest competish was American helmer Rob Ashford’s Donmar Warehouse production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which scored two acting honors: Rachel Weisz won for her lead performance as Blanche DuBois, which gives her the hat-trick of all the major U.K. awards (with the Evening Standard and the Critics’ Circle awards), while Ruth Wilson won the supporting actress honor for her performance as Blanche’s sister Stella.

“Enron” and “Jerusalem” provided three of five wins for the Royal Court Theater. The not-for-profit new writing house also won top comedy for Michael Wynne’s “The Priory” while James Macdonald’s production of Mike Bartlett’s “Cock” won for outstanding production in an affiliate theater.

In addition to new musical, “Spring Awakening” also won gongs for Aneurin Barnard as actor in a musical and Iwan Rheon for supporting performance in a musical or entertainment. The two thesps’ achievement was all the more notable as both were making their professional debuts in the production that was notoriously short-lived in its West End incarnation.

The other high-scoring tuner was the Regent’s Park Open Air Theater revival of “Hello, Dolly!” The vintage Jerry Herman show won musical revival and choreography for Stephen Mear while Samantha Spiro picked up actress in a musical, her second win after bagging the same award in 2001 for “Merrily We Roll Along.”

The National Theater had its only win via Mark Henderson who picked up a remarkable fifth Olivier for his lighting of “Burnt By The Sun.” Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner’s costume gong was the sole prize for tuner “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” while “A Little Night Music” (5 noms) and “Sister Act” (3 noms) were shut out.

The Royal Opera pulled off a coup by winning three of the four awards for opera and dance. Its “Tristan und Isolde” netted new opera production with Nina Stemme’s Isolde gaining the laurel for outstanding achievement in opera. “Goldberg – The Brandstrup Rojo Project” won new Dance production and Rambert Dance Company won achievement in dance for “an outstanding year of new work.”

The ceremony also saw the return of the audience award for the first time since 2002. Unlike the other awards voted by judging panels comprising just 9 people – five professional panelists and four members of the public with smaller panels for opera and dance – The Audience Award was a public online vote. The winner was “Wicked.”

The Society of London Theaters Special Award, in recognition of an outstanding contribution, went to Dame Maggie Smith. Michael Codron, legendary producer of new plays for almost 60 years, was presented with an achievement award in recognition of the huge effect he has had on British theater.

The 34th Laurence Olivier awards, hosted by Anthony Head, were held at a dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel.

Complete list of winners:

ACTRESS
Rachel Weisz, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Donmar Warehouse

ACTOR
Mark Rylance, “Jerusalem,” Royal Court/Apollo

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Ruth Wilson, “A Streetcar Named Desire”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Eddie Redmayne, “Red,” Donmar

NEW PLAY
“The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall, Trafalgat Studios

NEW COMEDY
“The Priory” by Michael Wynne, Royal Court

NEW MUSICAL
“Spring Awakening,” music by Duncan Sheik, book and lyrics by Steven Sater, Novello Theater

MUSICAL REVIVAL
“Hello, Dolly!,” book by Michael Stewart, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, Open Air Theater, Regent’s Park

ENTERTAINMENT
“Morecambe,” by Tim Whitnall, Duchess Theater

ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL OR ENTERTAINMENT
Samantha Spiro, “Hello, Dolly!”

ACTOR IN A MUSICAL OR ENTERTAINMENT
Aneurin Barnard, “Spring Awakening”

SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL OR ENTERTAINMENT
Iwan Rheon, “Spring Awakening”

DIRECTOR
Rupert Goold, “Enron,” Royal Court and Novello Theater

REVIVAL
“Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,” directed by Debbie Allen, Novello Theater

THEATER CHOREOGRAPHER
Stephen Mear, “Hello, Dolly!”

LIGHTING
“Burnt By The Sun,” Mark Henderson, National Theater

SET DESIGN
“Jerusalem,” Ultz

COSTUME DESIGN
“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, Palace Theater

SOUND DESIGN
“Spring Awakening,” Brian Ronan

AUDIENCE AWARD FOR MOST POPULAR SHOW
“Wicked,” music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman, Apollo Victoria

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AN AFFILIATE THEATER
The Royal Court for “Cock,” Royal Court Upstairs

NEW OPERA PRODUCTION
“Tristan und Isolde,” Royal Opera House

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA
Nina Stemme for her performance in “Tristan und Isolde”

NEW DANCE PRODUCTION
“Goldberg: The Brandstrup Rojo Project,” ROH2, Royal Opera House

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE
Rambert Dance Company for an outstanding year of new work

SPECIAL AWARD
Dame Maggie Smith

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Michael Codron

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