As part of a major revamp of the awards, sponsored by MasterCard, it’s the first time that the Oliviers are being held in a theatre since 2003 and the first time in more than ten years that the event is open to theatregoers, with more than 600 seats in the 2,200 Drury Lane sold to the public.
Theatregoers not able to attend can also follow full proceedings, thanks to a new broadcast partnership with the BBC. On television, red carpet arrivals will be shown on BBC News, a results and reactions programme afterwards will be presented by Jane Hill and arts editor Will Gompertz, and in between, there will be live coverage of the full ceremony available via the interactive Red button and on BBC Radio 2.
Full coverage & entertainment
From 5pm on the night, Whatsonstage.com will be reporting and tweeting live from the event, with details of winners across all 26 categories – the 25 shortlisted and the annual Special Award given for overall career achievement, which this year is being presented to legendary American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim – as well as photo galleries, gossip, interactive discussion and in-depth analysis, capturing the event’s glitz, glamour and overall buzz.
This year, our team of reporters will be covering the event from multiple locations: from the auditorium with the VIP guests, from the press room with the winners and world media, from the armchair at home following via the BBC and from the Twittersphere.
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The evening’s entertainment comprises a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, performed by stars including Adrian Lester who reprised his role in Sondheim’s Company for the Donmar in concert last year, a special performance by pop veteran Barry Manilow and Kerry Ellis, a 25th anniversary performance of The Phantom of the Opera, new choreography commissioned by dance companies Thick Skin and Zoo Nation, and highlights from this year’s nominated musicals - Sweet Charity, Into the Woods, Love Story, Fela!, Passion, Legally Blonde and Love Never Dies - accompanied by the 72-strong BBC Concert Orchestra, under the musical direction of David Charles Abell, with original music and orchestrations provided by Larry Blank.
The line-up of guest presenters includes: Benedict Cumberbatch, Anne-Marie Duff, Elisabeth Moss, Rupert Everett, Mark Gatiss, Amanda Holden, Jonny Lee Miller, Elaine Page, Danielle Hope, Rachel Tucker, Tamara Rojo, Patrick Stewart, Matthew Fox, Olivia Williams and Alfie Boe.
Who’s in the running?
The Olivier nominations, always dominated by the subsidised sector, this year sees the National Theatre back on top, leading with 17 nods, followed by the Royal Court and the Donmar Warehouse with nine apiece. Amongst the big plays contributing to those tallies are Thea Sharrock’s NT revival of After the Dance with its six nominations, the most for any play this year, Michael Grandage’s Derek Jacobi King Lear with five, and Bruce Norris’ satire Clybourne Park, now transferred from the Court to the West End, with four.
As in the Whatsonstage.com Awards, the big musical battle is being waged between Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s follow-up to The Phantom of the Opera, with seven nominations (the most of any production this year) despite an initially lukewarm critical response, and Broadway screen-to-stage transfer Legally Blonde with five. The productions vie against one another for Best Actress in a Musical (Love’s Sierra Boggess vs Blonde Sheridan Smith), Best Actor in a Musical (Ramin Karimloo vs Alex Gaumond), Best Supporting Role in a Musical (Summer Strallen vs Jill Halfpenny) and the big one, Best New Musical.
Many of the year’s other musicals - Passion, Fela!, Sweet Charity and Love Story - are in the running with trios of nominations.
Overall, multiple show nominees in the 2011 Oliviers are: Love Never Dies (seven), After the Dance (six), King Lear (five), Legally Blonde (five), Clybourne Park (four), End of the Rainbow (four), Fela! (three), Passion (three), Sweet Charity (three), The White Guard (three), Design for Living (two), All My Sons (two), Ghost Stories (two), Hamlet (two), Into the Woods (two), The Little Dog Laughed (two), The Railway Children (two), Sucker Punch (two) and Tribes.The Laurence Olivier Awards were created in 1976, then called the Society of West End Theatre Awards, to recognise excellence on the London stage. They were rebranded in 1984 when Lord Olivier agreed to have his name associated with them.