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National Theater rules Oliviers

'After the Dance,' 'The White Guard' rack up wins

The National Theater converted its 17 noms into a seven-win sweep at the Society of London Theaters’ 2011 Olivier awards, held at the Theater Royal Drury Lane.

The National’s triumph came via two separate productions. Terence Rattigan’s 1939 drama “After the Dance” won for revival (helmer Thea Sharrock), actress for Nancy Carroll, supporting actor for Adrian Scarborough and costume design (Hildegard Bechtler). “The White Guard” drew the director nod for Howard Davies (his third win), lighting for Neil Austin and the XL Video set design nod for Bunny Christie.

As widely predicted, the Royal Court was the other major winner of the night. Hot favorite Bruce Norris’ “Clybourne Park,” now transferred to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theater, bagged the new play nod, giving the U.S. scribe another piece of hardware to add to his U.K. Critics’ Circle, Evening Standard and South Bank Show Awards collection.

Other Royal Court winners were Michelle Terry for supporting actress for her performance in Nina Raine’s hit “Tribes” and Leon Baugh for choreographer for the boxing drama “Sucker Punch.” The latter beat stiff competish from Bill T. Jones, whose “Fela!” at the National was up for three awards but went home empty-handed. Other shutouts included the Judy Garland tribute “End of the Rainbow,” whose four nominees were unloved by the voters.

Roger Allam won the most hotly contested category, actor, for his perf as Falstaff in “Henry IV Parts 1 and 2” at Shakespeare’s Globe. Allam beat Derek Jacobi’s King Lear, Rory Kinnear’s Hamlet, Mark Rylance in “La Bete” and David Suchet in “All My Sons.”

The nearest the evening came to a serious upset was in the tuner categories. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom” sequel “Love Never Dies” was shut out completely despite having led the field with seven noms. Voters instead opted for London’s runaway hit production of “Legally Blonde,” which nabbed three awards: new musical, actress in a musical for Sheridan Smith and supporting actress in a musical for Jill Halfpenny. These nods are particularly notable given that the original Gotham production failed to convert any of its seven Tony noms into a win.

It was a also a big night for Stephen Sondheim. The Regent’s Park Open Air Theater production of his “Into the Woods” won musical revival, and David Thaxton won actor in a musical for Sondheim’s “Passion” at the Donmar Warehouse. Sondheim was also given the Solt Special Award, presented by Cameron Mackintosh, the presentation accompanied by performances of his work from stars including Angela Lansbury in her first appearance on a London stage in 21 years. Other musical perfs at the award included a duet between Barry Manilow and Kerry Ellis, the latter having starred in the Queen jukebox tuner “We Will Rock You,” which picked up the audience award for most popular show, the only prize voted on by members of the public. The show is still playing at the 2,016-seat Dominion, having opened there in May 2002.

The best entertainment prize went to a staging of the beloved Brit 1905 children’s novel and 1970 movie “The Railway Children.” The production, which played at a specially built theater at London’s Waterloo train station and boasts a real 60-ton steam train, is opening in Toronto in May.

The other surprise of the night was a pint-sized, fringe production of “La Boheme,” which stole the new opera production nod from under the noses of the Royal Opera House and English National Opera. Sadlers Wells Theater, meanwhile, took both dance awards for “Babel (Words),” a co-production with Theater de la Monnaie in Brussels.

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