Here's what the people behind the performances and productions you voted for had to say about being your Theatregoers' Choice for the very best that theatre had to offer in 2008. Remarks are presented in the order that awards were announced at the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards Concert at the Prince of Wales Theatre on Sunday 15 February 2009 (See Also Results Analysis , Photos & TV Coverage).

Best Solo Performance

Eddie Izzard - Stripped at the Lyric

“It looks a bit like the comedy award but without the stand! This is great. An award, from people phoning in - or keying in - I like that. I have cheated because I'm doing stand-up comedy, not that that's cheating, but the London comedy circuit which feeds into theatres is now the biggest in the world. In New York there are ten clubs, in LA there are about six, in London there are 70 or 80 comedy clubs. So the training we get here is fantastic – I'm talking both theatre and stand-up. It's just wonderful that people have bothered to get on and vote for me – so thank you to everyone who keyed that in. Thank you, thank you!” - Eddie Izzard

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Sophie Thompson - The Female of the Species at the Vaudeville

“Thank you very much the Theatregoers' Choice Awards, the people who voted – thank you. I've only known how to use a computer for about six months, and I've spent five months of that working out how to vote for myself!” - Sophie Thompson

The SPOTLIGHT Best Actor in a Play

Kenneth Branagh - Ivanov, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s

“Michael Grandage's brilliant vision for his Wyndham's season depends on several elements – the marriage of his superb Donmar team with the wonder-workers at Wyndham's and four terrific companies of actors, designers and stage managers. And crucially, of course, the audience. The willingness of London theatregoers to embrace Donmar in the West End made every performance of Ivanov feel like a vital and spontaneous event. Their eagerness met a rarely performed Chekhov play with total openness to the tragic/comic mix.

“When you act in a play when a one-line description might read: 'depressed man in Russia shoots himself before anti-Semitic, alcoholic community bores him to death' - you are profoundly grateful to the people who see beyond that to what Chekhov sees: life in all its messy, painfully funny reality. Our audiences did that for us, and taught us so much, and for that we are profoundly grateful. So, thank you London theatregoers for greeting our work with such full-blooded generosity. Actors and audiences, we're all in it together, and in that spirit I accept this on behalf of all my Ivanov acting colleagues, who like me will be thrilled with this lovely, lovely recognition”. - Kenneth Branagh (read by his Ivanov co-star Lucy Briers, who accepted on Branagh’s behalf)

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Tom Hiddleston - Othello at the Donmar Warehouse & Ivanov, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s

“This is a huge honour for me because both of these plays were my first gigs in the West End. But still more it's not often you share a dressing room with two of the finest actors of their generation and then get nominated in a category alongside them. And those two actors are Kevin McNally and Malcolm Sinclair – a very smelly dressing room might I add! They taught me a thing or two about this strange game that we're all in and also how to abuse younger actors when I get to their very senior age!

“I share this award absolutely with every single one of my fellow cast members from both productions – Chiwetel, Ewan McGregor, Kelly Reilly, Michael Jenn, Alistair Sims (form Othello) – I can't say all the names – likewise Kenneth Branagh and Lucy Briers and all the company of Ivanov.

“Shakespeare and Chekhov, it's a pretty special year. It was the most amazing year of my life, and I owe it almost entirely to Michael Grandage for his faith, inspiration, support and a break! And to all the staff at the Donmar, which is the best theatre in London as far I'm concerned, every single person who works there deserves one of these. It's massive, thank you very much.” - Tom Hiddleston

Best Shakespearean Production
The EMG Best Play Revival
The SEATCHOICE Best Director

Othello - Donmar Warehouse
Ivanov, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s
Michael Grandage - Othello & The Chalk Garden at the Donmar Warehouse & Ivanov, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s

“Thank you very much indeed. I've asked Ann McNulty, the Donmar's casting and creative associate, and James Bierman the executive producer of the Donmar to join me, because I know we're going to share these awards, and I'm going to need some help passing on the congratulations to all the actors and creative teams and the staff of the Donmar to thank them and to let them know how excited we are to be recognised by the public, it's a wonderful thing.

“You've just got to believe what you programme and hope that everyone who comes along believes it in the same way and has a good time. This very generous clutch of awards suggests that many of you have been to our home in Covent Garden and to our home at the Wyndham's and had a good time and that means more to me than I can possibly tell you so thank you very much indeed.” - Michael Grandage, Donmar Warehouse artistic director

The AMBASSADOR TICKETS Best Ensemble Performance

Into the Hoods - at the Novello

“We just want to thank everyone who voted for us. We'd like to thank Adam Speers, Kate Prince, Felix Harrison and the rest of the cast of Into the Hoods.” – ZooNation’s Roger Davies, Shaun Niles & Chantal Spiteri

Best New Comedy

Fat Pig by Neil LaBute - at Trafalgar Studios & the Comedy “Dear privileged friends and associates who are lucky enough to be gathered at the Prince of Wales theatre tonight while I'm stuck in a hotel feeling like Wayne Rooney is repeatedly kicking me in the face - you suck! I don't mean this in a bad way, but really, if you live in London, work in the theatre and gather with other cool people to receive awards and stuff like that it means you kind of suck. If we hadn't been nominated tonight that would mean you really suck, but as it stands you suck just a little. Believe me I wished I sucked too, I'd give anything to live in London and suck.

“Since I'm not there to enjoy the festivities with you and to look into the eyes of my co-nominees as they cry and gnash their teeth, let me try and offer some relief to you in the form of advice on how I feel about moments like this. If I win something then it's a blessing and a gift from God. If I lose – it was fucking rigged!

“On a completely serious note, I'd like to quickly thank a small but hugely important group of people who helped this play come to life – Howard Panter, Barry Weissler, Tali Pelman and Anna Waterhouse. These were producers of courage, stupid enough to take a chance on an American comedy in the West End. Lucky us. All of the crew who made it such a pleasure to go to work everyday, the genius cast of Ella Smith, Robert Webb, Joanna Page and Kris Marshall who found gold where there was really only tin, and especially our audiences who god bless you kept coming night after night. Without you we are nothing and I thank you, even though some of you live in London and therefore technically suck.

“And thanks for all of you here tonight who are part of this crazy profession. Thanks for continuing to work in this maddening and wonderful world. It's completely nuts that we keep doing it, and yet if you're like me, you can't imagine going a day without it. Again, thank you.” - Neil LaBute (read by Fat Pig star Ella Smith, who accepted on LaBute’s behalf)

Best Choreographer

Lynne Page - La Cage aux Folles at the Menier Chocolate Factory & Playhouse

“Thank you to everyone who voted, I'm glad you enjoyed our little show. Thank you to David Babani and everyone at the powerhouse that is the Chocolate Factory. I'd like to thank the producers for taking it to the West End. I'd like to thank the brilliant Terry Johnson – thank you, Terry, for all my notes! I'd like to thank the cast of La Cage aux Folles, the ludicrously talented Douglas Hodge and my delicious Cagelles. And my family – somewhere up there are my parents!” - Lynne Page

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Tracie Bennett - La Cage aux Folles at the Playhouse

“It's the wig, isn't it? That wig is the way forward – flick, flick! I'd like to repeat what Lynne said about David Babani and Sonia for paying our wages. Thank you so much for voting – it means a lot to me at this time, it's come at a perfect time for me. Thanks to the cast, it's so much fun. They rip the piss out of me endlessly for my French accent which veers from Bombay to Wales and back to Manchester! I have to say thanks to Jason Pennycooke, who holds that show together more than anyone – it's a joy to work with you. And Terry Johnson, thanks for having so much loyalty and faith, again.”- Tracie Bennett

Best Set Designer

Klara Zieglerova - Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward

“Firstly, thank you to the wonderful Des McAnuff. Secondly, to everybody who helped me bring my design to the beautiful Prince Edward theatre – I'm only as good as they are. And I also want to thank everybody who voted for me – I'm going to borrow a line from Jersey Boys: ‘The Oscars, the Emmys, whatever – you can buy that shit. This is the best, this is from the people’. Thank you.” - Klara Zieglerova

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Stephen Ashfield - Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward

“This is a bit of alright. I'd really like to thank everyone who voted for me, this is a real honour. My family – and my mum and dad are here tonight – thank you very much to you and to my friends as well. And also to everyone at Jersey Boys for helping me to play the part of Bob Gaudio, who's actually here tonight! There's always a feeling of responsibility when you're playing someone who's still alive – he's always watching me. This is actually the second time I've played a real-life person who's been very close to the production, the first one being Boy George. So please Bob try and stay out of trouble. Thank you very much for this, it means so much.” - Stephen Ashfield

The SEE TICKETS Best Actor in a Musical

Ryan Molloy - Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward

“Wow, thank you. It's like winning the bingo! This will look great on my mantelpiece in Crouch End. Thank you everybody at Jersey Boys, we've got a great cast there, and I really appreciate working with all those people – front of house, backstage, all the cast, thank you very much. Also everyone who voted for me thank you so much. Julian Stoneman, Andrew Treagus, Barry Burnett and Jill Green - and all the Geordie massive! Bob Gaudio – it was a surprise to see him! I think Frankie's here as well! Glenn Carter, Stephen Ashfield, Philip Bulcock – and, yes, that's his real name. It's a pleasure standing next to you in a spangly jacket.” - Ryan Molloy


The TICKETMASTER Best Musical Revival

West Side Story - at Sadler’s Wells

“On behalf of the entire cast and crew of West Side Story, a big thank you to all of you who voted for us, and a big thank you to Whatsonstage.com. And can we thank ATG and also Jeremy Lindley and, of course, Jerome Robbins.” – Daniel Koek & Jayde Westaby (who play Tony & Anita)

The VIAGOGO Best Actor in a Musical

Sofia Escobar - West Side Story at Sadler’s Wells

“I can't even begin to tell you what a great honour it is for me to be up here – and just to have even been nominated among such talented performers. To get this award is overwhelming, and it's really beyond any of my expectations when I first came to London. Thank you to my family and friends who've been with me all the way – and to the Portuguese people who've lived the dream with me. And to all of you who voted, thank you very much.” - Sofia Escobar

The SPOTLIGHT Best Actor in a Musical

Malcolm Rippeth - Brief Encounter at The Cinema, Haymarket & Six Characters in Search of an Author at the Gielgud

“I'd really like to thank White Light and Whatsonstage.com for having an award for lighting design, which is great! And to Kneehigh and Headlong for making such exciting shows, and David Pugh, Dafydd Rogers and Carole Winter for having the guts to put them into the West End. Thank you.” - Malcolm Rippeth

The MOBIUS Best Off-West End Production

Come Dancing - at Theatre Royal Stratford East

“This show is a rarity – it's a non-greatest hits show and it doesn't have any drag queens (that I know about). I'd like to say the Theatre Royal Stratford East have been big supporters of this show. You've got to have a lot of bottle to survive in theatre and they've got a lot of bottle – let's hear it for the bottle! I want to thank the co-writer and the cast. It was a great collaborative effort and we're coming to the West End very soon.” – Author & star Ray Davies

The MILK TWO SUGARS Best Takeover in a Role

Daniel Boys - Avenue Q at the Noel Coward

“I just want to say I'm sorry to Rachel, Denis, Summer, Suzanne, oh gosh, who's the other one?! Beaten by a puppet – ha! Seriously though, this moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for all the nameless, faceless women of fur. The door has been opened! I mean you like me, you really like me! I want to thank my manager, my agent, everyone at Avenue Q, my fluffer... I can't believe I'm standing here. I can't even feel my legs!” – Kate Monster (who accepted on behalf of Boys on the night)

Daniel Boys, who was unable to attend as he was headlining a concert in Southampton, wrote in to add:

”Being nominated for this award was exciting and flattering enough, but to actually win is just so thrilling! Thank you so much to all who voted for me. I feel very lucky to have a job that I love doing and Avenue Q has been a most special one. I had very big boots to fill taking over from Jon Robyns and so this award means such a lot to me. I would like to thank the cast, crew and everyone at the Noel Coward for making my time there an especially happy one. Oh, and thank you, too, Cameron - for giving me the job!”

The SPOTLIGHT Best Actress in a Play

Katy Stephens - The Histories, RSC at the Roundhouse

“Hi, Mum and Dad! The Histories was a very tough, very rugged and groundbreaking experience. A lot of people worked to bring those amazing plays and productions together. So the least I can do tonight is accept this award on behalf of all of those people.” - Katy Stephens

The TARGET LIVE Best Regional Production
The AKA Theatre Event of the Year

Hamlet - RSC at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
David Tennant returning to the stage in Hamlet for the RSC

Director & RSC chief associate Gregory Doran: “Thanks very much indeed, it's thrilling to receive this award. I knew there was going to be something special about this production when a chip shop in Stratford put a Dalek in the window saying “exterminate your hunger”. It was very special to have that particular company – a huge, wonderful company doing that great play. So it's wonderful to get this award, thank you very much indeed.

“It was extraordinary getting David Tennant back in Stratford. Every week there seemed to be some story – even Yorick got a mention in the papers. Of course, the extraordinary also happened that David got a prolapsed disc and couldn't complete the run (in London). And he couldn't make it tonight, so to accept on his behalf I'm going to call up a star. Laertes stepped into the role of Hamlet and had to do it for 21 performances, and he was brilliant. I felt like that producer in 42nd Street who grabs Ruby Keeler and says “you're going out there a youngster but you've got to come back a star”. And he is a star. To accept this award, it's Edward Bennett.”

Edward Bennett: “David's sorry he can't be here tonight, but I've kicked him in the back again. This is the last time I'll be his understudy, I hope. I'd like to thank Greg and everyone at the RSC, and on behalf of the company, I'd like to thank everyone who voted - but David won't be seeing any of this!”

The DEWYNTERS London Newcomer of the Year

Josh Hartnett - Rain Man at the Apollo

“I am very sorry I couldn’t be with you tonight. I'm working back in the States. Being on stage in the West End production of Rain Man was a thrilling new experience. I'm really proud to have been able to work with such a talented group of actors, directors, producers and backstage crew. Everyone worked incredibly hard and made me feel welcome throughout the run. I'm thankful to the audiences for coming out and supporting us, and a special thanks to Nica Burns the show's producer, who put her money where her mouth is and cast and up-and-coming New York Theatre actor without a single professional credit to his name. I hope to be back soon, thank you all so very much.” - Josh Hartnett (read by Whatsonstage.com editorial director Terri Paddock)

The NICK HERN BOOKS Best New Play

Under the Blue Sky by David Eldridge – at the Duke of York’s

“I just want to say thanks very much to all the people who voted to support Under the Blue Sky. I also want to thank from the bottom of my heart Sonia Friedman, Bob Bartner and Jamie Hendry for producing my play in the West End. A very very special thank you to Lisa Makin at Sonia Friedman productions and Catherine Tate, without whose passion, commitment and enthusiasm this show wouldn't have got on. Last but not least, Anna Mackmin and a peerless acting company who did such an exquisite and elegant production of Under the Blue Sky. A play in the West End is a very special thing, but particularly for a playwright of my generation. And as if that wasn't enough, this is the icing on the cake, thanks very much.” - David Eldridge

The WALDORF HILTON Best New Musical

Jersey Boys by Bob Gaudio, Bob Crewe, Rick Elice & Marshall Brickman – at the Prince Edward

“My wife made me promise not to use any authentic New Jersey vernacular! This is really special. Frankie's been out there performing for 150 years now, and winning an award from the people is great. He actually promised to buy me a boat (well, another boat) if we won so I'm going to hold him to that! I'll make this real short. On behalf of Bob Crewe, my co-writer for 100 years or so, Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, Des McAnuff, and lots of people who have already been mentioned by others, I can only say thank you.” - Bob Gaudio, original Four Season and Jersey Boys composer