|Lane & Evans|
Zimmerman Roasts Industry, Acceptance Excerpts
Date: 21 February 2005
For the second year in a row, the Laurence Olivier Awards was not televised. Although the disadvantages to the lack of television coverage are obvious, the change of format – from a mid-week, lunchtime affair to a lavish, Sunday evening sit-down dinner – does make for more interesting, live entertainment.
Better Late Than Never
The theme for this year’s entertainment was Cole Porter with, what was scheduled to be, four acts interspersing the meal courses and awards presentations. However, the first of these, Simply Heavenly co-stars Clive Rowe and Ruby Turner’s “Every Time You Say Goodbye” duet, went a bit awry.
Due to confusion over the call times, when presenter Richard Wilson announced the act, no one appeared. After a moment, a breathless Rowe, who’d raced down from his room in the hotel to have a mike immediately thrust into his hand, entered from the ballroom’s side door and launched into song as he made his way through the audience. But Turner still didn’t appear and Rowe was forced to ad lib his way until the end – “this is where I’m meant to dance with my partner but, as you can see, I’m partnerless” he said, adding in response to the audience’s laughter, “you think I’m joking?”
Wilson, who’d earlier warned winners that they would be marked for minimalism in their acceptance speeches, joked that the no-show Turner was “pure minimalism. You can’t get much more minimal than that.” Luckily, Rowe and Turner were coaxed back to open the post-dinner half of the ceremony with the number as rehearsed, dance sequence and all, to rousing applause.
Zimmerman Adds Zest
Turning up the heat even further in the second half of the evening’s entertainment was The Producers’ bombshell and Best Actress in a Musical nominee Leigh Zimmerman, who sang a scurrilous version of Porter’s “Let’s Do It”, in which the lyrics were rewritten by her singer-actor husband Domenick Allen to reflect the past year and upcoming months in the West End.
As the Old Vic artistic director and his entourage watched on from a front-and-centre table, the lyric that raised the most eyebrows noted that “Kevin Spacey on his mobile phone, denied it” in reference to the tabloid frenzy over the actor’s late night mugging in a London park last spring.
With many of the other subjects of the song’s jibes also in the star-studded audience, additional lyrics to raise laughs included: “flat on her back, Kim Cattrall does it”, “Jonathan Pryce with a goat does it”, “If Michael Ball can train that rat, they might do it”, “Richard Dreyfuss when he hurt his back, blew it”, “shows that have their orchestras on track do it”, “Guys and Dolls will endure through it, if Ewan McGregor can sing in tune”, “Nathan Lane for half the gross does it”, and “Acorn Antiques even do it, for £60 in the stalls”. But our very favourite line from Zimmerman’s number was: “The Whatsonstage gossip page does it”. Fame at last! (To read the song's full lyrics, click here.)
The evening’s other acts were The History Boys’ and double Whatsonstage.com Award winner Samuel Barnett singing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, TV reality show Musicality’s contestants Rebecca Dent (now in Saturday Night Fever) and Donna Hazelton (now in Chicago) singing “Anything Goes”, and The Woman in White’s Martin Crewes and Jill Paice performing a Porter medley.
Most of the presenters and winners adhered to Wilson’s “minimalist” edict. However, amongst highlights from the evening’s acceptance speeches were:
The History Boys’ Best Actor winner Richard Griffiths lamented: “I wish my poor old mum and dad were still alive to see this tonight. My dad would have laughed himself sick and my mum would have believed every word.” He admitted: “I’ve coveted this since I didn’t get one in 1979. It’s very grand.” And he sympathised with his fellow nominees because “it’s bloody irritating” when you don’t win.
When presenting the Society’s Special Award to Alan Bennett for his contribution to British theatre, comedienne Victoria Wood, whose debut musical Acorn Antiques opened earlier this month, said “I’m such a fan of his work and I really think he’s been underrated over the years because he’s accessible and that somehow is considered less worthy than obscure.” While she agreed with the description of Bennett’s writing as “beautifully observed”, she explained that “the hard part is what you do with what is observed”.
On collecting the Special Award, Bennett quipped, “There’s no gainsaying the fact that this is the Zimmer frame award” and remarking that in his work “I’ve actually written this scene” before. He pointed out, however, that, “Theatre is really doing, not what you’ve done. And the thing we’re doing, The History Boys, has given me more pleasure than anything I can remember.” When he was later called back on stage to collect the Best New Play prize for The History Boys, Bennett seemed genuinely shocked. “They’ve given me the other one already….I’ve nothing else to say,” he began before musing that, “All the cast have had two chances to leave if they wanted to and they’ve all stayed together. We’ve all enjoyed it so much and I hope that comes across.”
Rather sheepishly accepting his Best Director trophy for his premiere production of Bennett’s The History Boys at the National, NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner deferred to his fellow nominees, in particular Mary Poppins’ Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne and The Producers’ Susan Stroman. “There’s nothing spectacular going on at all” on stage of The History Boys, he said. “Directing a new musical, now that’s hard, that’s really hard. This, by comparison, was indecently pleasurable and I really don’t deserve it.”
The History Boys ensemble leaped to their feet to whistle and cheer loudly for each of the show’s wins, particularly the honours for Bennett and Griffiths. The latter joked that he could supply phone numbers for anyone in the audience interested in the handsome young actors at his table.
In non-History Boys play categories, director Trevor Nunn, on collecting the Best Revival trophy for Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Old Vic, said: “I am genuinely very very surprised and therefore completely unprepared. I suppose I should thank the writer who somehow seems to keep coming up with it and being more relevant than anyone around.” He also praised Ben Whishaw, who led the young cast in the ‘student’-aged production, saying Whishaw was a “director’s dream” and a “ready-made star”.
Clare Higgins – who, after her 2003 win for Vincent in Brixton last night picked up a second Best Actress statue for Hecuba at the Donmar Warehouse – remarked to fellow nominee and Critics’ Circle winner, Suddenly Last Summer’s Victoria Hamilton: “So Victoria, it’s knuckle dusters in the car park like we promised”. Soon to appear opposite Brian Dennehy in the transfer of the Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, Higgins dedicated her award to Salesman’s legendary American playwright Arthur Miller, who died this month (See News, 17 Feb 2005). “This is for Arthur”, she said to calls of “Here! Here!” from the audience.
The National’s staging of His Dark Materials won awards for both Best Lighting Design for Paule Constable and Best Set Design for Giles Cadle. In accepting her prize, Constable described the two-part adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy book trilogy “an act of madness”.
Nathan Lane, on receiving the award for Best Actor in a Musical for The Producers - in which he took over at the last minute from an injured Richard Dreyfuss days before performances began (a feat which also earned him the Whatsonstage.com Award for Planet Hollywood Theatre Event of the Year) and then finished his three-month stint prematurely due to his own injuries – said: “Thank you, you crazy British people. God bless you. For an old Anglophile like myself, this means a great deal.” He thanked “first of all, Richard Dreyfuss without whom none of this would have been possible” then, recounting how he’d “entered and exited the show dramatically”, assured the audience that he was recovering and that “my discs are no longer slipping, just holding on for dear life”. He proceeded to thank the creative team and the London company of The Producers, who’d been “very supportive” as “my body parts gave out”, with particular praise heaped on his co-star Lee Evans, “the sweetest, kindest, most talented man in all of Christendom” who deserved “half of this” award.
Nathan Lane returned to the podium with Lee Evans (pictured together mimicking Siamese twins, as they told photographers) to collect the Best New Musical trophy on behalf of The Producers company. Lane again thanked Mel Brooks, book writer Thomas Meehan, director Susan Stroman and the rest of the show’s creative team while a much less serious Evans cracked jokes about being thrown out of his hotel room’s mini-bar and revealed that the dinner jacket he was wearing “is from the finale of the show”. After further amusing the audience with various sign-language and trouser-hiking gags and waving repeatedly at the band (claiming the harpist was his mother), Evans was ushered off only to race back out on stage three times to hold the Olivier statuette aloft to raucous applause and then play hide-and-seek with presenter Richard Wilson.
Conleth Hill received The Producers third Olivier for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical. Rather than mentioning the show’s “big stars” who he said he’d thank personally, Hill honoured “the ensemble, the orchestra…and everybody else who doesn’t normally get thanked”. He called the experience of working at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on Brooks’ show “an absolute joy”.
In non-Producers musical categorires, when jointly accepting with Stephen Mear, the tenth award presented last night, Best Theatre Choreographer for Mary Poppins, Matthew Bourne exclaimed, “Ooh we got one at last!”. He went on to say: “This was a dream job for both of us. It was a dream team, as it came to be known, but it really was. And a dream cast.”
When later collecting the second of Mary Poppins’ two Oliviers, Best Actress in a Musical Laura Michelle Kelly confessed, “I really didn’t thing I was going to be up here.” She paid particular thanks to her husband for helping her withstand “the pressure of taking over from Julie Andrews” and her co-star and Best Actor in a Musical nominee Gavin Lee, “who’s an amazing person to act opposite”.
Best Sound Design winner Mick Potter from The Woman in White thanked, amongst others, composer “Andrew Lloyd Webber who wrote a fantastic score and worked very closely with us”.
After winning the same category last year for Pacific Overtures, the Donmar Warehouse won Outstanding Musical Production for its revival of Grand Hotel. Artistic director Michael Grandage, who directed the scaled down production, thanked “all of my colleagues behind the scenes at the Donmar who made this happened and supported it so much.
For the full list of 2005 Olivier winners & first photos, click here For additional photos from the night, click here For analysis of the judges’ decisions, click here For full lyrics of the song that rocked the party, click here For additional titbits from the night in The Goss, click here For an overview of the Oliviers & other awards in Features, click here
Subscribe to our free newsletter