Nominations for this year s 23rd annual Laurence Olivier Awards, the country s most prestigious theatre awards, have been announced this week. The Royal National Theatre production of Oklahoma! dominates with nine nominations including Outstanding Musical Production, Best Director for Trevor Nunn, Best Actress in a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical and two nominations for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical. The RNT also received several nominations for other productions - including Sebastian Barry s Our Lady of Sligo, Michael Frayn s Copenhagen and Terry Johnson s Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick - bringing the Theatre s total up to 16 nominations, one or more in almost every major category.

Two new plays - David Hare s The Blue Room and Conor McPherson s The Weir - also racked up several nominations a piece. The Blue Room, Hare s modern take on Arthur Schnitzler s La Ronde which had a sell-out run last year at the Donmar Warehouse, received six nominations including Best New Play, Best Director for Sam Mendes, Best Actress for Nicole Kidman and Best Actor for Iain Glen. The Weir, which is back at the Royal Court now for a third run, has also been nominated for Best New Play and Best Director for Ian Rickson, receiving four nominations in total.

Strong line-ups in both the Best Actor and Best Actress categories see nominations going to Micheal Gambon for The Unexpected Man, David Suchet for Amadeus, Kevin Spacey for The Iceman Cometh and to Sinead Cusack for Our Lady of Sligo, Judi Dench for Filumena and Diana Rigg for Britannicus and Phedre.

TV presenter Clive Anderson will host the awards ceremony on Friday, 12 February 1999 in a lunchtime ceremony held at the National Theatre. To maintain an element of surprise, the winners of some categories will receive their awards in unexpected locations outside of the ceremony. The Awards will be televised on BBC2 on Monday, 15 February at 7.30pm in a programme that will combine the awards presentation with the highlights of the year in London theatre.

NOMINATIONS

This year s Awards comprise 83 nominations in 20 categories:

BEST NEW PLAY: The Blue Room by David Hare at the Donmar Warehouse; Copenhagen by Michael Frayn at the RNT Cottesloe; The Weir by Conor McPherson at the Royal Court; The Unexpected Man by Yasmina Reza, RSC at The Pit and Duchess.

BEST NEW COMEDY: Alarms & Excursions by Michael Frayn at the Gielgud; Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick by Terry Johnson at the RNT Lyttelton; Love Upon the Throne by Patrick Barlow at the Comedy; Things We Do For Love by Alan Ayckbourn at the Gielgud and Duchess.

BEST NEW MUSICAL: Rent at the Shaftesbury; Whistle Down the Wind at the Aldwych; Saturday Night Fever at the Palladium; Kat and the Kings at the Vaudeville.

BEST MUSICAL PRODUCTION: Oklahoma! at the RNT Olivier; Into the Woods at the Donmar Warehouse; Annie at the Victoria Palace; Show Boat at the Prince Edward.

BEST ENTERTAINMENT: Jackie Mason - Much Ado About Everything at the Playhouse; The Right Size in Do You Come Here Often? at the Vaudeville; Steve Coogan Is the Man Who Thinks He's It at the Lyceum; Shakespeare's Villains: A Masterclass in Evil with Steven Berkoff at the Haymarket.

BEST ACTOR: Iain Glen, The Blue Room; Michael Gambon, The Unexpected Man; David Suchet, Amadeus at the Old Vic; Jim Norton, The Weir; Kevin Spacey, The Iceman Cometh at the Almeida and the Old Vic.

BEST ACTRESS: Nicole Kidman, The Blue Room; Judi Dench, Filumena at the Piccadilly; Diana Rigg, Britannicus and Phedre, Almeida at the Albery; Sinead Cusack, Our Lady of Sligo at the RNT Cottesloe; Eileen Atkins, The Unexpected Man.

BEST SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE: Brendan Coyle, The Weir; Emma Fielding, The School for Scandal, RSC at the Barbican; Adam Godley, Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick at the RNT Lyttelton; Michael Sheen, Amadeus.

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Entire Cast, Kat and the Kings; Clarke Peters, Chicago at the Adelphi; Adam Garcia, Saturday Night Fever at the Palladium; Hugh Jackman, Oklahoma!.

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Krysten Cummings, Rent; Maria Friedman, Chicago; Josefina Gabrielle, Oklahoma!; Sophie Thompson, Into the Woods.

BEST SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL: Shuler Hensley, Oklahoma!; Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Rent; Jimmy Johnston, Oklahoma!; Andrew Kennedy, Annie.

BEST DIRECTOR: Howard Davies, The Iceman Cometh; Sam Mendes, The Blue Room; Trevor Nunn, Oklahoma!; Ian Rickson, The Weir.

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER: Loukmaan Adams and Jody Abrahams, Kat and the Kings; Peter Gennaro, Annie; Arlene Phillips, Saturday Night Fever; Susan Stroman, Oklahoma!.

BEST COSTUME DESIGNER: Maria Bjornson, Britannicus and Phedre; Bunny Christie, As You Like It at Shakespeare s Globe; William Dudley, Amadeus at the Old Vic and London Cuckolds at RNT; Robert Jones, Henry VIII, RSC at the Young Vic.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGNER: Paule Constable, Amadeus and Uncle Vanya, RSC at the Young Vic; Mark Henderson, Britannicus and Phedre; David Hersey, Oklahoma!; Hugh Vanstone, The Blue Room and The Unexpected Man.

BEST SET DESIGNER: Maria Bjornson, Britannicus and Phedre; William Dudley, Amadeus and Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick; Richard Hoover, Not About Nightingales at the RNT Cottesloe; Mark Thompson, The Blue Room and The Unexpected Man.

BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION: Ballett Frankfurt's Enemy in the Figure, Sadler's Wells; Royal Ballet's Room of Cooks, Sadler Wells; City Ballet of London's The Man with the Moustache, Sadler's Wells at the Peacock; Bill T Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company's We Set Out Early...Visibility Was Poor, Sadler's Wells at the Peacock.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE: Trisha Brown for L'Orfeo, BITE:98's presentation of Theatre Royal de la Monnaie's production; William Forsythe and his company for their Sadler's Wells season Bill T. Jones and his company for We Set Out Early...Visibility Was Poor; Twyla Tharp and her company for their BITE:98 season.

BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION: English National Opera's Boris Godunov at Coliseum; ENO's Il Trittico at Coliseum; L'Orfeo; Welsh National Opera's La Clemenza di Tito at the Shaftesbury.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA: Sandra Ford for her outstanding company debut as principal artist in ENO's Tales of Hoffman and Mary Stuart at Coliseum; Rene Jacobs for his musical direction of L'Orfeo; The Orchestra of the ROH for its consistently outstanding musicianship in Royal Opera's Le Nozze di Figaro at the Shaftesbury, The Bartered Bride and The Golden Cockerel at Sadler's Wells; Andrew Shore for his outstanding character performances in ENO's Gianni Schicchi and The Elixir of Love at the Coliseum.