American musicals dominated the 2015 Olivier Award nominations, with “Memphis” and “Beautiful” leading the pack with a combined total of 17 nods. The National Theatre, meanwhile, had its worst showing in the awards’ 40-year history, garnering only three nominations, all for the David Byrne and Fatboy Slim tuner “Here Lies Love,” another American-bred project.
Elsewhere, the Donmar Warehouse’s revival of Cy Coleman’s “City of Angels” received five nominations, including a first inclusion for artistic director Josie Rourke, while “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” landed two apiece. Kinks musical “Sunny Afternoon” led the all-British contingent with five.
Broadway alumni “Memphis” and “Beautiful” will go head to head for new musical, with both shows’ leading ladies — Beverley Knight and Katie Brayben, respectively — up for actress in a musical.
American plays also fared well. Ivo Van Hove’s acclaimed production of Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” was the most-nominated drama, earning seven of the 11 nominations that made the Young Vic the leading venue. Its production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” is up for revival, alongside Yael Farber’s staging of “The Crucible, “while Jennifer Haley’s “The Nether” (currently playing Off Broadway) received four nominations, including one for new play.
Haley’s play will compete in that category with Mike Bartlett’s “King Charles III,” which picked up six nominations; Mike Poulton’s Broadway-bound adaptations of Hilary Mantel’s novels “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies” for the Royal Shakespeare Company; and Mark Hayhurst’s “Taken at Midnight.”
The acting categories look particularly competitive. Mark Strong, who won a Critics’ Circle award for his portrayal of Eddie Carbone, will face off with James McAvoy, up for “The Ruling Class,” as well as Tim Piggott-Smith (“King Charles III”) and Richard Armitage (“The Crucible”).
Gillian Anderson, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Imelda Staunton and Penelope Wilton are all in the mix for actress, while Gemma Arterton, Tamsin Grieg, Jon Jon Briones and Killian Donnelly are among those nominated for the equivalent musical categories.
Supporting performances recognized include Angela Lansbury’s Madame Arcati in “Blithe Spirit” (a role for which she previously won a Tony),and Nathaniel Parker’s Henry VIII in “Wolf Hall,” a part he will reprise on Broadway next month.
The Olivier Awards changed their voting system two years ago, allowing SOLT members a say in the process. It’s notable that the overwhelming majority of nominations come from productions that played in the West End at some point in their life, with only three theater productions that played exclusively in the subsidized sector earning recognition in the main categories.
The full list of nominations can be found at the Oliviers website.