Spamalot’s Lady of the Lake Hannah Waddingham (pictured) and How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? semi-finalist Abi Finley are amongst the stars who will perform as part of a special concert at the launch of this year’s seventh annual Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre prize-giving to be decided by members of the public. In addition to the awards nominations, this year’s party, held at Café De Paris on Friday 1 December 2006, marks’s tenth birthday and as such, is bigger and better than ever.

Concert entertainment

The special concert at the event also celebrates the fact that 2006 is the biggest year for musicals in London in living memory – with more than 20 major musical productions hitting the West End alone. As the concert’s finale, Hannah Waddingham will sing “Whatever Happened to My Part” from Monty Python’s hit Broadway musical Spamalot, now at the West End’s Palace Theatre.

Abi Finley will perform “Maybe This Time” from Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, revived this year care of director Rufus Norris in a critically acclaimed production at the West End’s Lyric Theatre. The number was one of Finley’s showstoppers on How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, the BBC One contest to win the lead in this month’s production of The Sound of Music at the London Palladium. Since exiting the competition in the semi-final, Finley has won the part in Tim Rice’s updated version of his 1983 musical Blondel, which opens this month at north London’s Pleasance Theatre.

Also in the concert line-up: Daddy Cool’s Melanie La Barrie, introduced by her fellow cast member and So Solid Crew rapper Harvey, will sing “Can’t Stand the Rain”; Sheridan Smith and Paul Keating will do “Suddenly Seymour”, their duet in Little Shop of Horrors, revived this month at the Menier Chocolate Factory; and Lorna Want, who has starred in two of this year’s West End musical arrivals, Footloose and Evita, will be accompanied by fellow Evita cast members Leila Benn Harris, Jodie Jacobs and Robyn North.

The concert, produced by Stuart Piper, will be staged by Sunday in the Park with George's Tara Wilkinson with Dancing in the Streets' Iain Vince Gatt as musical supervisor.

Our charity & sponsors

The Café de Paris event is held in aid of this year’s adopted charity, S.A.F.E. (Sponsored Arts for Education), which was co-founded by Alan Rickman and Ian Holm amongst others. S.A.F.E. educates and informs African communities about vital health and social issues by using the arts, primarily theatre, to help break the stigma, silence and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS. By working with the best young artists, S.A.F.E. also provides much-needed employment for the arts community and recognises the importance of culture to all communities worldwide.

Now, the UK’s best-loved celebrity magazine, is media partner for this year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards. Other headline sponsors so far announced are: Superbreak, the market leader for short breaks throughout the UK; Nick Hern Books, the UK’s leading independent theatre publishers and performing rights licensors; and celebrity hairdresser Stuart Phillips. (Email us to request information on awards sponsorship opportunities.)

Star-studded turn-out

With RSVPs still flooding in, amongst those so far confirmed to attend the event on 1 December are: Nigel Planer, Sinead Cusack, Alan Cumming, Olivia Williams, Chris New, Christopher Sieber, Hugh Dancy, Martine McCutcheon, Michelle Collins, Martin Sherman, Colin Teevan, Matthew Marsh, Laura Michelle Kelly, Jenna Russell, Amy Nuttall, Jean Boht, Deborah Findlay, Amanda Harris, Lesley Nicol, Guy Henry, June Watson, Philip Voss, Michael Simkins, David Eldridge, Rhashan Stone, Simon Farquhar, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Angela Caesar, Issy van Randwyck, Kaisa Hammarlund, Valda Aviks, Natalie Walter, Joseph Millson, Malcolm Sinclair, David Lan, Anthony Clark, Sonia Friedman, Alan Cox, Sean Campion, Liza Goddard, Fred Ridgeway, William Hoyland, Susannah Wise, Nicky Henson, Adrian Scarborough, Amanda Drew, Darrell D’Silva, Matthew White, Michael Simkins, Samuel Anderson, Anthony Drewe, Grant Olding, Jimmy Akingbola, Fraser Ayres, David Grindley, Raymond Coultard, Dawn Hope, Jenny Jules, Amanda Harris, Ray Panthaki, Liz Robertson, Sally Ann Triplett, Andy Goldberg, Shona Lindsay, Dominic Cooke, Tamara Harvey, Laura Wade, Jay Webb, Tony Rohr, Charles Edwards, Rupert Degas, Nina Raine, Naomi Bentley, Leo Bill, Fred Ridgeway, Emmanuel Idowu, Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh, Nataylia Roni, Alistair Petrie, Andrew Pepper, Sarah Flind, Tim Fountain, Isabella Calthorpe, David Farley, Monica Dolan, Sarah Ball, Martin Hutson, Jonathan McGuinness, Sarah Woodward, Nora Cole, Christopher Godwin, Nicole Ansari-Cox, Nikolai Foster, Natalie Grady, Michelle Gayle, Abi Titmuss, Arlene Phillips, Patsy Palmer, Caprice and How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? finalists Simona Armstrong, Aoife Mulholland, Leanne Dobinson and Meliz Serman. Also in attendance will be myriad leading producers and other key figures from the theatre industry.

Nominations for this year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, covering the year from 1 December 2005, continue online throughout this month. The shortlists, as determined by theatregoer submissions, will be announced at the Café de Paris event on 1 December. Voting for the eventual winners will take place during December and January with results announced in early February 2007.

- by Terri Paddock

To nominate your favourite performances & productions
& visit the awards microsite, click here!

To enter our competition to WIN one of five pairs of tickets to the awards event
& tenth birthday party on 1 December, click here!
(Competition open to Theatregoers’ Club members only.