Dames & Hollywood Miss Out in Olivier NominationsDate: 16 January 2003
Nominations for all awards events - and the Laurence Olivier Awards, London's equivalent of the Tonys and the UK's most prestigious stage awards are no exception - are always controversial. But this year's Oliviers may be most controversial not for what was included but for what, and who, has been excluded.
There are several glaring - and some may say unforgivable - omissions in the nominations, announced today, for the 27th annual Laurence Olivier Awards. Amongst the no-mentions are the sell-out world premiere of David Hare's The Breath of Life, starring Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, and the critically acclaimed Broadway transfer of The Full Monty, which in November won the Evening Standard award for Best New Musical.
Nominations are also noticeably thin on the ground for the Queen-Ben Elton musical We Will Rock You and for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which withdrew from its London residency at the Barbican Centre in April but which has mounted seasons at the Roundhouse and in the West End. We Will Rock You received one nomination only - Best Supporting Performance in a Musical for "Killer Queen" Sharon D Clarke - despite being the year's biggest blockbuster and leading the voting in its five Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards nomination categories. Meanwhile, the RSC's single nomination is for Best New Comedy contender The Lieutenant of Inishmore, which was commercially co-produced, and recast, in the West End.
Also largely absent from the nominations are the swathe of Hollywood stars who invaded the West End in 2002. While Gwyneth Paltrow, who made her London stage debut in Proof at the Donmar, is up for Best Actress - where she's competing with British screen star and fellow Donmar veteran Emily Watson (Uncle Vanya), Clare Higgins (Vincent in Brixton) and Anita Dobson (Frozen) - there's nothing for other recent American imports like Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, Woody Harrelson, Kyle Maclauchlan, Madonna nor Matt Damon, Jake Gyllenhaal or any from the rotating trios for Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth (the production itself is unheralded).
And missing from the Best Actor in a Musical category is West End favourite and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang star Michael Ball. Instead, for the second year running, My Fair Lady is in contention for both Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musical, with nominations for Alex Jennings and Joanna Riding, who replaced original stars Jonathan Pryce and last year's Olivier winner Martine McCutcheon.
The Return of New Musicals
On the other hand, a previous omission has been reversed: the category for Best New Musical, excised from last year's Olivier awards, has been reinstated for 2003. Four new shows - Bombay Dreams, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Madness' Our House and Boy George's Taboo - are in contention for that honour, while a mere two revivals - Anything Goes and Oh What a Lovely War - are deemed strong enough for consideration as Outstanding Musical Production.
Across the rest of the musical categories, none of the new shows dominate, though Taboo has the most nominations (four). Equally strong count-wise are the pseudo Gershwin revival My One and Only and the Broadway transfer of Susan Stroman's dance musical Contact (with four apiece), while Matthew Bourne's dance play Play Without Words - premiered last summer as part of the NT's Transformation season and, like Contact, classified as an "Entertainment" - received a total of five nominations, including Best Director and Best Choreographer.
No Clear Leaders
In fact, in a year where there are no real "sweeps" or apparent favourites, Play Without Words' five nominations puts it in the lead, with the most nominations for any single production. Sam Mendes' farewell double bill at the Donmar Warehouse notched up five nominations - two for Uncle Vanya, including Best Actor for Simon Russell Beale as well as Watson's Best Actress nod, one for Twelfth Night and two for both together, including Best Director.
Elsewhere, Nicholas Wright's Vincent in Brixton scored three nominations (including Best New Play) and Trevor Nunn's productions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Tom Stoppard's epic trilogy The Coast of Utopia both received a quartet of nominations, which all contributed to the National Theatre's tally of 21 nominations in total.
The Donmar Warehouse received nine nominations overall compared to the Royal Court's seven (three for Christopher Shinn's Where Do We Live in the tiny Jerwood Theatre Upstairs), the Globe's three (all for Twelfth Night) and Hampstead Theatre's two.
Winners of the 27th annual Laurence Olivier Awards will be announced on Friday, 14 February 2003 in a star-studded lunchtime ceremony, hosted again by Clive Anderson, at the West End's Lyceum Theatre, home of The Lion King. The ceremony will subsequently be broadcast on BBC2 television at 8.00pm on Saturday 15 February in an edited programme that combines the awards presentation with highlights of the past year in London theatre. This year's awards are sponsored by hotel group Hilton UK and Ireland.
- by Terri Paddock
To view the full list of 2003 Laurence Olivier nominations, click here.