The nominations for the 2013 Olivier Awards were announced today (click here for the full shortlists), with big name actors Rupert Everett, Mark Rylance, James McAvoy, Helen Mirren, Billie Piper and Kristin Scott Thomas among those getting the nod.
The most nominated production this year is the National Theatre's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, now transferred to the West End, which gets eight nominations, to add to its Whatsonstage.com prize for Best New Play.
Top Hat is close behind with seven nods, while Sweeney Todd - a five-time winner at last month's audience-voted Whatsonstage.com Awards - gets six. Elsewhere in the musicals categories, with four nominations, The Bodyguard (which won Best Musical at the Whatsonstage.com Awards) is among the Best New Musical nominees, in a field that also features Loserville, Top Hat and Tina Turner bio-musical Soul Sister.
In a strong year for the commercial West End, four productions that opened in the past eight weeks benefited from recent extensions to the Oliviers dates of eligibilty, receiving multiple nominations: plays The Audience (five nominations, including Best New Play, Best Actress for Helen Mirren and Best Director for Stephen Daldry), Macbeth (two, including Best Actor for James McAvoy) and Old Times (two, Best Actress for Kristin Scott Thomas and Best Revival), and musical revival A Chorus Line (two).
The National Theatre productions of The Effect and This House also receive multiple nominations, although Simon Russell Beale - who won both the Critics' Circle and Evening Standard awards for his performances in Timon of Athens and Collaborators respectively - misses out.
Other notable omissions include Rowan Atkinson (Quartermaine's Terms), David Suchet (Long Day's Journey into Night), Sally Hawkins (Constellations) and Whatsonstage.com Award winner Sheridan Smith (Hedda Gabler), who will co-host the Oliviers ceremony, with Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville on Sunday 28 April 2013.
Meanwhile, though the Globe's production of Twelfth Night claims four nominations (including previous Olivier winner Mark Rylance for his performance as Olivia - a role for which he was also nominated a decade ago), its partner production of Richard III, with Rylance in the title role, gets none.
The critically panned Spice Girls musical Viva Forever! also walks away empty-handed, while the Donmar Warehouse has its worst tally in over 15 years with just one nomination (for Cush Jumbo's performance in the all-female Julius Caesar).
This year's Oliviers shortlist is further testament to the influence of the Chichester Festival Theatre - productions which originated at the south coast venue (led by Sweeney Todd, pictured) notched up a total of 13 nominations, more than any other theatre (see tallies below).
At today's nominations event, held at the Mayfair Hotel in London, Julian Bird, chief executive of Oliviers organiser Society of London Theatre (SOLT), told Whatsonstage.com that this year's shortlists represent "another strong and exciting year".
"The acting categories are incredibly strong this year - I personally wouldn't like to have to choose between those names," he added. "We're in a golden period at the moment; advances are at record levels and we have shows across the board doing well, both plays and musicals."
Bird clarified that there were six productions eligible for Best New Musical this year (the others being Viva Forever! and Daddy Long Legs) - recent opener The Book of Mormon will be eligible for next year's Oliviers. Others not eligible for nominations include the Menier Chocolate Factory revival of Merrily We Roll Along and the Whatsonstage.com Award-winning arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar.
As previously announced, special awards will be give this year to choreographer Gillian Lynne and writer Michael Frayn. Lynne, who was at today's event, said she was "totally astonished" by the honour. "I thought everyone had long since forgotten who I was," she added.
Elaine Paige, who worked with Lynne on Cats and co-presented today's nominations with Ruth Wilson, paid warm tribute. "Gilly has always been a great supporter of mine and encouraged me from a very young age," she said. "I really think she's the best choreographer in the world."
Scores on the doors
Overall, multiple show nominees in the 2013 Oliviers are: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (eight), Top Hat (seven), Sweeney Todd (six), The Audience (five), Kiss Me, Kate (five), The Bodyguard (four), Constellations (four), Twelfth Night (four), Cabaret (three), The Effect (two), Long Day’s Journey into Night (two), Macbeth (two), Old Times (two) and This House (two).
And by theatre, taking out the West End-originated productions, the nominations' haul breaks down as: Chichester Festival transfers (12), National Theatre (11), Royal Court (seven), Old Vic (six – five of them for CFT's Kiss Me, Kate), Shakespeare's Globe (four), the Barbican (three) and Hampstead (two). There's just one apiece for the Royal Shakespeare Company (in the Audience Award field for last year's big winner Matilda and the Donmar Warehouse, as well as, the new St James Theatre and, in the dedicated Affiliate category, the Tricycle, the Bush and Theatre Royal Stratford East.
The winners will be announced at the Royal Opera House on Sunday 28 April, which will be covered live on BBC Radio 2 with a subsequent highlights package on ITV. "I'm really excited about our continuing association with Radio 2 and ITV this year," said Julian Bird, "it's a fantastic opportunity for us to promote London theatre."