The Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of Roald Dahl children’s classic Matilda has swept the board at this year’s 36th annual Olivier Awards, the UK’s equivalent of the Tony Awards, presented in association with MasterCard tonight (15 April 2012) at London’s Royal Opera House.

After being nominated in the maximum possible categories, Matilda The Musical managed to convert seven of its ten nominations into wins tonight: Best New Musical, Best Actress (the four young title stars) and Best Actor in a Musical (Bertie Carvel), Best Director (Matthew Warchus), Best Choreographer (Peter Darling), Best Set Designer (Rob Howell) and Best Sound Designer (Simon Baker).

Matilda, which has a book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by comedian Tim Minchin in his musical debut, has already scooped Best New Musical gongs this year at the Whatsonstage.com and Evening Standard Awards. But, while a hugely popular favourite, its win tonight over critical favourite, the National Theatre’s sung-through documentary musical London Road, will come as a surprise to some.

The other closest musical winner tonight was the Open Air Theatre’s revival of Gershwin-fest Crazy for You, which closed last month in the West End after transferring in the autumn from Regent’s Park. It won Best Musical Revival and Best Costume Design (Peter McKintosh).

Nigel Harman repeated his Whatsonstage.com Award success by nabbing Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical for his diminutive Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical. And in the only publicly decided award at the Oliviers, the BBC Radio 2 Audience Award for the West End long-runners, Les Miserables came out tops over Wicked, Jersey Boys and Billy Elliot.

Other big musicals from 2011 on the shortlists, Ghost The Musical, South Pacific and Betty Blue Eyes, all missed out on Olivier gongs.

Plays & players

The most surprising Olivier omission of all this year, however, is the National Theatre’s mega-hit, Richard Bean’s Goldoni makeover One Man, Two Guvnors, which continues in the West End and has its Broadway premiere this Wednesday; it also goes home completely empty-handed. It lost out for Best New Play to another NT premiere, screenwriter John Hodge’s playwriting debut Collaborators.

And One Man’s leading man James Corden, who won the Whatsonstage.com Best Actor prize, also lost out to fellow NT competitors in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, who repeat their Evening Standard success of winning jointly for their alternating roles as the doctor and the creature in the Danny Boyle directed Frankenstein.

Elsewhere in the play categories, Whatsonstage.com Award co-host Sheridan Smith won her second consecutive Olivier. After taking home last year’s Best Actress in a Musical for Legally Blonde, she won Best Performance in a Supportin Role in a play for Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path, for which she’s already been recognised at the Standard and Critics’ Circle prizes.

The other big play winner tonight was the Donmar Warehouse revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. It won Best Play Revival and its titular star Ruth Wilson beat off competition from Kristin Scott Thomas, Lesley Manville, Celia Imrie and Marcia Warren to scoop Best Actress.

Matilda magic & new records

Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Sophia Kiely and Eleanor Worthington-Cox, the child actresses who rotate in the title role of Matilda the Musical, tonight become the youngest ever Olivier winners. Ranging in age from ten to 12, the four girls beat the previous record set by the three boys – George Maguire, James Lomas and Liam Mower – who, aged 13 to 15, jointly won Best Actor in a Musical for Billy Elliot in 2006.

In the Best Actor category, Matilda’s Bertie Carvel becomes the third winner of that category in recent years to triumph in a cross-dressing role, following Douglas Hodge in 2009 for La Cage Aux Folles and Michael Ball in 2008 for Hairspray.

Matilda’s Best Director Matthew Warchus, currently in New York preparing for the Broadway premiere of his other 2011 blockbuster musical Ghost, was presented with his trophy by James Earl Jones, a moment show via a live video link. The Oliviers were also screened tonight to an invited audience in New York, celebrating the strong connection between the world’s two theatre capitals.

That’s entertainment

Highlights of the evening included a montage celebrating the work of Olivier Special Award winner Sir Tim Rice led by Maria Friedman, Siobhan McCarthy, Elaine Paige and the cast of The Lion King, a performance by the Royal Ballet from Wayne McGregor’s Limen to mark Dame Monica Mason’s Olivier Special Award, theatrically-themed entertainment from Ronan Keating including a duet with Shrek The Musical’s Kimberley Walsh, and Queen’s Brian May – who performed the finale of this year’s Whatsonstage.com Awards - joining the cast of We Will Rock You for a special “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

The 2012 Olivier Awards were presented by Sweeney Todd stars Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton. In addition to winners and nominees, stars in the audience tonight included Zach Braff, Jack Davenport, Katherine Kelly, James McAvoy, Tim Minchin, Sir Patrick Stewart, Kara Tointon, Jodie Whittaker and Will Young. The BBC Concert Orchestra was conducted by David Charles Abell.

Whatsonstage.com is providing extensive coverage of the Olivier Awards.
Visit our dedicated Olivier Awards microsite at Whatsonstage.com/oliviers
for non-stop reporting, full results, photos and analysis.