For a third year in a row, one musical swept the board of the UK’s major theatre prizes. This year, Billy Elliot repeated the feat accomplished by Jerry Springer in 2004 and The Producers last year by winning Best Musical/New Musical in the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle, Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards and, last but not least, at the Laurence Olivier Awards ceremony tonight at the London Hilton.
Billy Elliot triumphs
Billy Elliot won a total of four awards tonight – for Best Actor in a Musical (jointly for James Lomas, Liam Mower and George Maguire, the three boys who originated the title role), Best Choreographer (Peter Darling) and Best Sound Design (Paul Arditti). The Best New Musical prize capped the evening’s ceremony, and was quickly followed by the cast triumphantly retaking the stage to perform a number from the show, “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher”.
Though Michael Grandage’s revival of Guys and Dolls closely followed Billy Elliot at the nominations stage – with eight nods to Billy’s nine – it only managed to convert two. Soon after performing “Adelaide’s Lament” for the star-studded audience, Jane Krakowski returned to the stage to collect Best Actress in a Musical. The revival also won Outstanding Musical Production.
Schiller bows to Ibsen
Another force that failed to convert its many nominations was 18th-century German playwright Friedrich Schiller. While the two productions of his plays Don Carlos and Mary Stuart caused a sensation in the West End in 2005, and racked up a dozen nominations between them, there was only one win tonight – Best Lighting Design (Paule Constable for Don Carlos).
Instead, the big play winner was Richard Eyre’s revival of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, which took home four big prizes: Best Actress (Eve Best), Best Director (Richard Eyre), Best Revival and Best Set Design (Rob Howell).
The Broadway transfer of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman won only one award – Best Actor for Brian Dennehy – but the reaction of the audience proved it to be a popular choice. Dennehy appeared genuinely humbled, saying, “There’s no way for me to tell you how much this means to me, especially here, especially now.” He also took a minute to “talk about Arthur Miller”, who died last February. “I was with him about a week before he died,” Dennehy recalled. “He was looking forward so much to us opening this production here. It’s too bad he didn’t live to see it. But he was out there on stage with me every night.”
Amongst the other key awards were: Best New Play for On the Shore of the Wide World, Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical for Celia Imrie in Acorn Antiques, Best Performance in a Supporting Role (In a Play) for Noma Dumezweni in A Raisin in the Sun, Best Entertainment for illusionist Derren Brown’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and Best New Comedy for Heroes. Sir Ian McKellen was presented with the Society's Special Award for Lifetime Achievement.
- by Terri Paddock