If you were judging by the results of this year’s Laurence Olivier Awards, you’d be forgiven for thinking there hadn’t been any Broadway musical imports in 2006. None made any impact on this year’s Oliviers – except in providing the entertainment for the star-studded ceremony held tonight at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane (See Full Winners' List, 18 Feb 2007).

Wicked and Avenue Q had already been smarting at their minimal representation in the Olivier shortlists, announced last month, but Monty Python’s Spamalot - which won last year’s Tony Award for Best New Musical – also went home empty-handed tonight, failing to convert any of its seven nominations. Other 2006 blockbusters – including The Sound of Music, Evita and the Gershwins’Porgy and Bess - were equally unrewarded.

Mighty Menier

Instead, it was a much smaller-scale revival, of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, which swept the board. It triumphed in all but one of its categories, winning: Outstanding Musical Production, Best Actor and Actress in a Musical (Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell), Best Lighting Design (Natasha Chivers and Mike Robertson) and Best Design (David Farley and Timothy Bird, who had already triumphed at the Evening Standard and last year’s Critics’ Circle Awards for their computer-generated animations).

The success of Sunday in the Park with George also meant that the Menier Chocolate Factory, the 150-seat Southwark venue where the show originated prior to transferring to Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End, led the institutional awards tally, with its five wins putting it ahead of the UK’s flagship subsidised companies, the National Theatre (four), the Royal Shakespeare Company (three) and the Royal Court (one), with their multiple auditoria and myriad productions.

In other musical categories, Rufus Norris’ West End revival of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret scored two wins, Best Supporting Performance in a Musical for Sheila Hancock and Best Theatre Choreographer for Javier De Frutos, previously best known for his work at Rambert Dance Company.

One American musical import did succeed tonight: Caroline, Or Change was named Best New Musical, having already won prizes at the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards. The UK premiere of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s civil rights-set musical drama, which finished its limited repertory season as the National last month, won over commercial productions of Avenue Q, Monty Python’s Spamalot and, controversial when nominated, Porgy and Bess, Trevor Nunn’s reworking of the Gershwins’ 1935 jazz opera. Wicked, the overwhelming favourite in the Whatsonstage.com Awards, was not shortlisted.

Play upsets

In the drama categories, the big surprise of the evening was that Rock ‘n’ Roll did not take home the trophy for Best New Play. Tom Stoppard’s play has already triumphed at the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards and was tipped to make it four in a row tonight. But at the Oliviers, it was pipped to the post by Blackbird, David Harrower’s two-hander about the repercussions of a paedophiliac relationship.

More consistently for Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rufus Sewell was once again named Best Actor – adding to his wins at the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle ceremonies. Not so lucky was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’s Kathleen Turner, who won Best Actress at both of those prize-givings. At the Oliviers, Tamsin Greig, star of the RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing, triumphed over Turner and last year’s Best Actress winner Eve Best (nominated this year for A Moon for the Misbegotten) as well as Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Sinead Cusack.

The RSC was also responsible for this year’s two-time play winner: its tribute production of the late Arthur Miller’s 1953 classic The Crucible won Best Revival (triumphing over tough contenders A Moon for the Misbegotten, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Donkeys’ Years) and Best Director for Dominic Cooke, former RSC associate director and the newly-installed artistic director of the Royal Court. In his category, Cooke beat off competition from just two other directors, both of musicals: Wicked’s Joe Mantello and Sunday in the Park with George’s Sam Buntrock (that show’s single failure to convert).

Other key wins at the year’s 31st annual Laurence Olivier Awards went to The 39 Steps, repeating its Whatsonstage.com Award success for Best New Comedy, The Seafarer’s Jim Norton (Best Supporting Performance in Role) and Theatre Royal Stratford which beat, amongst others, itself, for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre (its production of Pied Piper winning out over its entire “powerful season of provocative work, reaching new audiences”).

Entertainment

While the Olivier winners’ list may suggest that musical productions on offer last year were limited, the evening’s entertainment certainly reflected the unprecedented number of new arrivals. In addition to Best Actor and Actress in a Musical co-stars, Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell, who sang “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George as the ceremony’s finale, the line-up of performances was: the cast of Avenue Q (singing “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”), Lesley Garrett from The Sound of Music (“Climb Every Mountain”), Elena Roger from Evita (“You Must Love Me”), Tonya Pinkins from Caroline, Or Change (“Lot’s Wife”), Hannah Waddingham from Spamalot (“The Diva’s Lament”) and Nicola Hughes and Clarke Peters from the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (“Bess, You Is My Woman Now”).

This year’s star-studded Oliviers ceremony was hosted by Richard Wilson and Sue Johnston at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, with guest presenters including Elaine Paige, Don Johnson, Kim Cattrall, Claire Sweeney, Samantha Janus, Richard Schiff, Isla Blair, Robert Bathurst, Anne-Marie Duff, Ray Fearon, Alistair McGowan, Sheridan Smith, Laura Michelle Kelly, Tony Hadley and Lorna Luft. Many of this year’s winners and nominees were also in attendance.

To view the full list of 2007 Olivier winners & nominations, click here.

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