Nominations for the 14th annual WhatsOnStage Awards are revealed today (Friday 6 December) at our star-studded Launch Party at London's Café de Paris. The Awards are the only major UK theatre awards voted for entirely by the ticket-buying public. Over the past month, theatregoers have broken a new record by submitting more than 80,000 nominations across 27 different categories, aiming for their favourite performances and productions to be recognised.
The magic of the musicals
2013 has been an incredibly strong year for new musicals. This has been borne out in the shortlists, which are dominated by: blockbuster Broadway imports The Book of Mormon, the musical satire by South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Once, based on the 2006 Irish film; as well as home-grown world premieres of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Roald Dahl 1964 children's classic staged by Sam Mendes, The Light Princess, workshopped over four-and-a-half years by the National Theatre, and From Here to Eternity, with lyrics by Tim Rice. These five, all still currently running in London, comprise the field for Best New Musical.
In what is sure to be the 2014 WhatsOnStage Awards' biggest show tug-of-war, the year's two biggest-budget openings, The Book of Mormon and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, also lock horns in the competitions for Best Actor in a Musical (Gavin Creel's missionary for Mormon vs Douglas Hodge's Willy Wonka for Charlie), Best Supporting Actor in a Musical (Stephen Ashfield, a previous WhatsOnStage winner for Jersey Boys, vs Nigel Planer), Best Supporting Actress in a Musical (Alexia Khadime vs Iris Roberts) and Best Choreographer (Casey Nicholaw vs Peter Darling).
In addition to their Best New Musical credits, the music makers behind The Light Princess (American pop singer-songwriter Tori Amos) and Once (Glen Hansard, former frontman of Irish band The Frames, and Markéta Irglová) are both twice-recognised on the shortlists. The Grammy-nominated Amos is in the running for London Newcomer of the Year for her theatrical debut, while Hansard and Irglová's score, which includes the 2007 Oscar-winning Best Original Song "Falling Slowly", is shortlisted for Best Original Music. The Light Princess and Once also compete for Best Actress in a Musical (Evening Standard winner Rosalie Craig vs Croatian Zrinka Cvitešić), in a category that also fields The Sound of Music's Charlotte Wakefield, The Color Purple's Cynthia Erivo and Scarlett Strallen, from A Chorus Line and Candide.
The year's new musical mystique was strengthened by UK premieres in major Off-West End productions of Broadway musicals: The Scottsboro Boys (with four nominations, including Best Original Music, Best Choreographer for Broadway legend Susan Stroman, and Newcomer of the Year for American Kyle Scatliffe) at the Young Vic, the final Kander and Ebb collaboration prior to lyricist Ebb's death in 2004; page-to-screen-to-stage adaptation The Color Purple (three nominations) at the Menier Chocolate Factory; and Titanic (two nominations for Best Off-West End Production and Best Ensemble Performance) at Southwark Playhouse.
The biggest musical revival in the West End this year, the quintessential ode to musical theatre troupers, A Chorus Line, also nets four major nominations, despite closing at the London Palladium in August. In the Best Musical Revival category, it competes with the Menier Chocolate Factory's reclamations of two other Broadway classics, the just-opened Candide (with three nominations overall) and Merrily We Roll Along (with two), as well as the Open Air Theatre's production of yet-another Broadway classic, Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music.
This year's play categories are heavily influenced by the offerings of two directors – former Donmar Warehouse artistic director Michael Grandage and his Donmar associate Jamie Lloyd, who both branched out to mount major seasons at the Noel Coward Theatre and Trafalgar Studios, respectively. The Michael Grandage Company's stellar line-up, with five back-to-back productions – Privates on Parade, Peter and Alice, The Cripple of Inishmaan, A Midsummer Night's Dream and, just opened this month, Henry V – over more than a year, has received nine nominations, including Theatre Event of the Year. Lloyd's "Trafalgar Transformed" programme, which is due to resume in the new year, earns six nods, including four for his post-apocalyptic, James McAvoy-led Macbeth, and the two men are both nominated for Best Director.
The heavyweight play acting categories present a pair of intriguing his ‘n' hers nominations for great talent. Husband and wife James McAvoy and Anne-Marie Duff are both nominated with McAvoy up for Best Actor for Lloyd's Macbeth and Duff for Best Actress for Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude at the National Theatre. They face competition from Fences' leading couple Lenny Henry and Tanya Moodie.
And, proving that they're all grown up, Harry Potter's former boy stars, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, both figure in the shortlists. Radcliffe, a 2008 WhatsOnStage winner for Equus, is another 2014 Best Actor nominee, for taking the title role in Grandage's production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan. And Grint is shortlisted for Newcomer of the Year for making his stage debut in the current West End revival of Jez Butterworth's Mojo.
The Queen and other stars
No stranger to playing our monarch, Oscar-winning Helen Mirren has impressed audience and critics alike with her regal portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in Peter Morgan's The Audience. Will she rule over her other Best Actress subjects, which, in addition to Anne-Marie Duff and Tanya Moodie, include Hayley Atwell (The Pride) and Suranne Jones (Beautiful Thing)? Mirren's is one of four nominations for The Audience, which also receives nods for Best Supporting Actress (Haydn Gwynne), Best Supporting Actor (Richard McCabe) and Best New Play.
The Best Actor in a Play competition is equally fierce. McAvoy, Henry and Radcliffe are in the running alongside: BAFTA winner Ben Whishaw, nominated jointly for playing a psychopath in Mojo and the titular Peter Pan alongside Judi Dench in Peter and Alice and; and Rory Kinnear for his chilling Iago in Othello at the National.
Kinnear is this year's most versatile nominee, having also been recognised for his playwriting debut,The Herd, which is up for Best New Play for its premiere at the Bush Theatre. It vies for the prize with The Audience, Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica, John Logan's Peter and Alice and David Greig's The Events.
Other big names on this year's shortlists include: Daniel Mays (Best Supporting Actor in a Play for Mojo and Trelawny of the Wells), Charles Edwards (Best Supporting Actor in a Play for Strange Interlude), James Dreyfus (Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for Candide), Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna Everage, Best Solo Performance for Eat Pray Laugh!), pop singer Beverley Knight (Best Takeover in a Role for The Bodyguard), YouTube sensation Carrie Hope Fletcher (Best Takeover in a Role for Les Miserables), Jack Huston (Newcomer of the Year for Strangers on a Train), Alex Jennings (Best Solo Performance for playing Alan Bennett in ''Hymn''), [[search]]Maria Friedman (Best Director for Merrily We Roll Along), Olivier winner Leigh Zimmerman (Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for A Chorus Line) and Evening Standard winners David Walliams (Best Supporting Actor in a Play for A Midsummer Night's Dream) and Cush Jumbo (Best Solo Performance for Josephine and I).
Marathons and celebrations
The National Theatre's 50th anniversary gala brought together the crème de la crème of British acting talent in a glittering evening, broadcast live on the BBC, that has been nominated for Theatre Event of the Year. Legends including Dames Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren and Sir Michael Gambon along with Benedict Cumberbatch, Adrian Lester and History Boys James Corden and Dominic Cooper took to the stage to represent each decade from the National's illustrious history. The National's opening of The She', a temporary performance space on the South Bank, while the Cottesloe is closed for renovation and renaming, is also shortlisted in the same category.
Other momentous events in the running include: the return of immersive theatre specialists Punchdrunk with The Drowned Man, a vast theatrical adventure that unfolds over four levels of "Temple Studios" in Paddington, and the Lyric Hammersmith's Secret Theatre season, which kept audiences guessing what they'd see up until the moment the curtain rose each night. Amongst the quirkier honourable mentions for Theatre Event of the Year is Dame Helen's rant at street drummers during the interval of a performance of The Audience – while fully dressed up as The Queen! A moment that went viral on YouTube.
Scores on the doors and polls open
Final tallies for shows with multiple nominations include: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Light Princess (six each); The Book of Mormon, Once (five each), A Chorus Line, From Here to Eternity, Macbeth, Mojo, Othello, The Audience, The Scottsboro Boys (four each), Candide, Chimerica, Strangers on a Train, The Color Purple, The Drowned Man (three each), A Midsummer Night's Dream, Fences, Handbagged, Les Miserables, Merrily We Roll Along, Peter and Alice, Strange Interlude, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Phantom of the Opera, The Pride, The Sound of Music, The Weir and Titanic (two each).
Voting opens at 2pm on Friday 6 December 2013 and closes at midnight on 31 January 2014. Winners will be revealed at the Awards Ceremony and Concert at the West End's Prince of Wales Theatre on Sunday 23 February, and comedians Rufus Hound and Mel Giedroyc are to return as hosts. Last year more than 60,000 theatregoers voted for their favourites.
The 2014 WhatsOnStage Awards are held in connection with The Big Issue, which offers people who are homeless the opportunity to earn their own money. The Big Issue Foundation is the charitable organisation which works tirelessly with the magazine's street vendors to help them deal with their issues and take their next steps out of homelessness.
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