But what of the TV coverage? Opening with a dazzling televisual performance from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character Mike TV (geddit?) was inspired as it marries both mediums. But to quote a Not The Nine O'Clock News sketch – nice video, shame about the song.
After a slightly awkward few gags (this is ITV, remember?), we then got to the awards themselves. James McAvoy presented Best Revivial, with Ghosts the worthy winner. Richard Eyre gave a lovely speech about how no-one knows who he really is ("oh look, it's Peter Stringfellow"), though the TV audience were no doubt scratching their heads, thinking 'who is this'?
The next performance came from soon-to-be-winner The Book of Mormon, with Gavin Creel singing "I Believe". Do I? As non traditional musical theatre goes, I consider it a worthy winner - in that young people watching can see there is much more to musical theatre than a costume drama with songs.
Kathleen Turner presented the Best Actor award. There's something really Lauren Bacall about her and her purring voice - alluded to in a low-pitched intro from Arterton - will make Bakersfield Mist a delight, I'm sure. The winner, Rory Kinnear, dedicated the award to his partner and raised laughs by mentioning how f***ing tired they both are as new parents.
The Oliviers celebrate theatre and remind regular audiences what they have seen and what's to come. But for those who have missed out, it's a fantastic plug for London. It's just a shame that regional talent isn't able to be celebrated, particularly as many shows such as The Full Monty start off as local pieces.
Michael Xavier and Mylene Klass presented the outdoor coverage from Covent Garden. Pity then that we heard a song from Wicked that's overly familiar – "Defying Gravity". Mylene told us that it's being "performed outside for the first time." As USPs go, it's perhaps not the strongest... Next it was the turn of the Les Mis cast, later crowned winners of the Radio 2 Audience Award.
Back in the Opera House, lead performance in a musical was the next award to be featured. And the presenter this year, Robert Lindsay, could well be next year's winner given the great reviews he's getting in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The winner, Gavin Creel, was a popular choice. I've tried to see him twice - in Hair and Mormon - and each time he has been indisposed. But his enthusiasm and thanks to everyone from fellow actors to box office staff and everyone else in-between makes you realise why he gets standing ovations night after night; he clearly loves what he's doing.
Luke Treadaway presented Best Actress to Lesley Manville - a fine actress and the honour is not a bad plug for the Digital Theatre presentation of Ghosts. Then came a fabulous performance from Once; Arthur Darvill is very enigmatic and conveys how magical this small show is.
Kristin Davies, currently in the criticaly derided Fatal Attraction brought some Stateside glamour to the evening presenting Best Director, to Lyndsey Turner for Chimerica. And it proved to be a great night all round for the Almeida, though Best Supporting Actor and Actess, Lighting, Sound, Costume and set design were all glossed over by ITV.
Given Stephen Ward's recent early closure and the headlines that followed, it was nice to see what makes Andrew Lloyd Webber so admired with "Masquerade" from Phantom. Then came one of the evening's nice surprises - Zrinka Cvitešić winning Best Actress in a Musical for Once - she delivered a marvellous, heartfelt speech and it's great to see this show and her turn being rewarded.
Other performances included The Scottsboro Boys (fingers crossed for a West End transfer) , and Bernadette Peters singing "Losing My Mind" from Sondheim's Follies. Maybe I've listened to too much Liza over the years but I longed for it to be speeded up and remixed by the Pet Shop Boys. Listen to the album "Results" and you'll see what I mean.
There was a lovely dedication to Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr and we were reminded of the fabulous work they have achieved at the National Theatre. NT Live itself is inspired so it's only right these two have been rewarded (with the 'thanks now f*** off' award, as Hytner termed it) for their hard work over the last decade.
And then Benny and Bjorn from Abba were on hand to (sort of) close the show, as Mamma Mia! marked its 15th anniversary. It was apt to end with "Thank You for the Music".
And that's it! What were your favourite moments? My two favourite awards were Best Revival (for Merrily We Roll Along) and Best Actress (for Once), and in terms of performances, Matilda and Once hit the spot.
This year's highlights package was up with the best thanks to its slickness, while Arterton and Mangan did a sterling job and ensured it was accessible.
With Skylight, A Streetcar Named Desire, Made In Dagenham and Memphis on the way to the West End, who will win big next year? Whatever happens, if the coverage is as good as this year, the audience at home will be guaranteed winners.
- Almeida Theatre
- Nicholas Hytner
- Stephen Mangan
- The Book of Mormon
- Richard Eyre
- Royal Opera House
- Olivier Awards
- Michael Xavier
- Gemma Arterton
- Gavin Creel
- Myleene Klass
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