This year a record 46,000 people voted across 26 different award categories between 4 December, when the nominations were announced, and 31 January, smashing last year's total by 11,000 (See News, 1 Feb 2010).
Among the awards on offer was the special anniversary Best West End Show Award, which saw long-runner and previous Whatsonstage.com Award winner Wicked beat off fierce competition from the National Theatre production of War Horse, which only transferred to the New London theatre last year.
In the musicals categories, Oliver! and Priscilla Queen of the Desert shared the glory, with three and four respectively: Oliver! winning the Best Musical Revival category, Best Actor in a Musical (Rowan Atkinson) and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical (Jodie Prenger), while Priscilla took home Best Choreographer (the late Ross Coleman), Best New Musical, Best Supporting Actor in a Musical (Oliver Thornton) and Best Set Designer (Brian Thomson).
Rowan Atkinson, who made his musical theatre debut in Oliver!, said he was “touched” by the recognition. “When I embarked on this journey to play the part of Fagin, I did so with a degree of apprehension. I hadn’t been on the West End stage in 20 years and I had never sung in a musical - well, I’d never sung really … So I’d like to thank you all sitting there very much indeed, but I’d also like to thank mostly all those who voted for me, and all those real people who spent real money to come and see the show.”
Screen stars triumph
British screen stars Jude Law and Rachel Weisz were named as Best Actor and Best Actress in a Play, both for Donmar Warehouse productions: Law with a commanding 40% of the Best Actor vote for his portrayal of Hamlet and Weisz for her much acclaimed performance as Blanche DuBois (for which she’s already won Best Actress honours at the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards) in A Streetcar Named Desire, which also took home the award for Best Play Revival.
Accepting his award, Jude Law said: “This is a real thrill. Thank you so much, particularly to Whatsonstage.com, and of course, to everyone who voted for me. It’s a very important award for me because it’s voted for by the theatregoers.
“To be under the wings of the Donmar at the Wyndham’s Theatre was extraordinary at the end of such a successful season and to be in a great company led by an extraordinary director really made this one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. And to be celebrated for it by the audience that came really means an awful lot. So thank you very, very much. And I look forward to seeing you all again soon, on the stage.”
Rachel Weisz also paid tribute to the Donmar, commenting: “Playing Blanche was the most thrilling experience, and I doubt I will ever find a better role. If anyone comes across a better role written for a woman, please let me know! Thank you to the whole cast, the Donmar Warehouse, and our wonderful director Rob Ashford. Thank you so much, this award really means a lot to me.”
Battle of the Hamlets
In the 'battle of the Hamlets', the Royal Shakespeare Company production, headed by David Tennant, won the Best Shakespearean Production Award, with Patrick Stewart scooping the prize for Best Supporting Actor in a Play for his portrayal of Claudius. Stewart also took home the award for Theatre Event of the Year, sharing the prize with his colleague, friend and X-Men co-star, Ian McKellen for their pairing in Waiting for Godot at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
Best Director went to perennial audience favourite Trevor Nunn for his revivals of Inherit the Wind at the Old Vic & A Little Night Music at the Menier Chocolate Factory Garrick, while Sister Act's Natasha Katz was recognised in the Best Lighting Designer category. The Alan Menken musical also triumphed in the hotly contested Best Actress in a Musical, with its star Patina Miller pipping the likes of Charlotte Wakefield, Hannah Waddingham and Jane Horrocks to the post for her portrayal of Deloris Van Cartier, the role created on screen by Whoopi Goldberg.
'Forces of Twitter'
Accepting his award for Best Solo Performance, Derren Brown acknowledged the "forces of Twitter" for helping him win by just ten votes over comedian Rob Brydon, adding: "This is very exciting, particularly as it’s for my stage show which is my favourite thing that I do. Obviously, I knew that I was going to win, but I wasn’t aware that I’d pipped Rob Brydon so closely at the last minute - I just found out that I won by ten votes. So really this should go to both me and Rob, but it doesn’t; it goes to me as it turns out. So thank you enormously."
Elsewhere, in the London Newcomer of the Year Award category, former X-Factor contestant Diana Vickers triumphed for her performance in The Rise & Fall of Little Voice, while other former talent search TV star Jodie Prenger once again beat her former rival Jessie Buckley, both finalists in the BBC’s I’d Do Anything, in a head-to-head to be crowned Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her performance as Nancy in Oliver!.
Best Off-West End Production was another closely-fought category, with the Union Theatre's all-male revival of The Pirates of Penzance (who performed a rousing medley at the Awards Concert) narrowly edging out the UK transfer of Forbidden Broadway at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Other hugely popular winners included: Tim Firth’s adaptation of his hit film Calendar Girls, with original star Lynda Bellingham joining Firth to collect the trophy for Best New Comedy; and John Barrowman, who was awarded Best Takeover in a Role for his cross-dressing return to the West End stage last year in La Cage aux Folles.
Barrowman, who won a Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Actor in a Musical for Anything Goes back in 2004, said: "The reason I love this is because it's voted by you guys, the public. I'd rather be recognised by you than by any kind of hierarchy because I think you're more important because you bought the tickets ... But I must tell you that my Zaza was only as good as you guys made it, and also because of the company that I had behind me. So I accept this on behalf of the entire cast and company of La Cage aux Folles, particularly the Cagelles, who worked their butts off. Thank you very much."
Terri Paddock, editorial director of Whatsonstage.com, said: “What a fantastic night, my thanks to all the performers, nominees and, of course, the audience. It’s been wonderful to see such amazing talent get the recognition they deserve – and what could be better than receiving an award chosen for by the ticket-buying public.”