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‘Lear,’ ‘Chicago’ top Olivier choices

Shows nab multiple nods at London legit awards

LONDON — A National Theater production of “King Lear” and the London version of the smash Broadway revival of “Chicago” were major prize-winners at the 22nd annual Laurence Olivier Awards Monday, honoring achievement in 1997 in London theater, opera and dance.

German singer Ute Lemper was named best actress in a musical for “Chicago,” with the show itself cited as best musical production (as opposed to best new musical). The prize for the show was made not at the lunchtime ceremony at the Albert Theater but some nine hours later, onstage at the Adelphi Theater following the evening performance of the John Kander-Fred Ebb musical.

The best comedy prize will be given later in the week in the same manner so as to enliven the delayed BBC2 broadcast of the ceremony on Feb. 23. The most likely recipient is Ben Elton’s satiric “Popcorn,” since it’s the only one of the category’s three nominees that is still running.

‘Beast’ musical winner

Best new musical went to “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” as the stage adaptation of the animated film musical is formally known in London. The Broadway-bound “Closer,” a dark work by Patrick Marber about two erotically entangled couples, trumped English theater stalwarts David Hare and Tom Stoppard (among others) to win best new play. The four-character drama, starring Liza Walker, reopens March 31 at the Lyric Theater on the West End after nine months in the National Theater repertoire.

In a crisp ceremony full of surprises and intentionally bereft of Tony Award-style live entertainment, Zoe Wanamaker in “Electra” beat two British dames — Maggie Smith and Oscar nominee Judi Dench — to win best actress. Best actor was, Ian Holm in “King Lear” for which Richard Eyre was named best director.

Best actor in a musical produced another unexpected winner in Philip Quast, as the crippled villain of last summer’s “The Fix.” Lemper’s leggy Velma Kelly in “Chicago” pipped co-star Ruthie Henshall to take the distaff musical performer prize.

Reinking loses out

In the seemingly oddest choice of all, “Chicago’s” Tony-winning choreographer Ann Reinking lost in that category to director-choreographer Simon McBurney (director of Broadway’s incoming “The Chairs”) for his “movement” on a National revival — long-since closed — of Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle.”

The supporting performance choices were both bizarre — Sarah Woodward as the lone female in the four-person “Tom and Clem,” with Michael Gambon, and a campy James Dreyfus for the National’s revival of “Lady in the Dark.”

A list of winners follows:

New play: “Closer.”

New musical: “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.”

Musical production: “Chicago.”

Entertainment: Slava Polunin, “Slava’s Snow Show.”

Actor in a play: Ian Holm, “King Lear.”

Actress in a play: Zoe Wanamaker, “Electra.”

Actor in a musical: Philip Quast, “The Fix.”

Actress in a musical: Ute Lemper, “Chicago.”

Supporting performer in a play: Sarah Woodward, “Tom and Clem.”

Supporting performer in a musical: James Dreyfus, “Lady in the Dark.”

Director: Richard Eyre, “King Lear.”

Choreography: Simon McBurney, “The Caucasian Chalk Circle.”

Sets: Tim Goodchild, “Three Hours After Marriage.”

Costumes: Tim Goodchild, “Three Hours After Marriage.”

Lighting: Rick Fisher, “Chips With Everything” and “Lady in the Dark.”

Dance production: “L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed Il Moderato.”

Achievement in dance: Lez Brotherston for his designs for Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella.”

Opera production: “Paul Bunyan” at the Royal Opera House.

Achievement in opera: Paul Daniel for conducting Janacek’s “In the House of the Dead” and for his overall contribution to English National Opera.

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