The Best Actress category has been renamed this year in honour of actress Natasha Richardson, who died in March following a skiing accident. Announcing the longlists, Evening Standard executive director Evgeny Lebedev paid tribute to Richardson, calling her "one of the great stage talents of our age", adding that the renaming of the award will "honour her achievements and her memory".
The Awards, now in their 55th year, will be chosen by a panel of critics including the Standard’s own Henry Hitchings, the Observer’s Susannah Clapp, the International Herald Tribune’s Matt Wolf, the Mail On Sunday’s Georgina Brown and the Daily Telegraph’s Charles Spencer. The longlists, which prior to 2007 were kept private, will be whittled down to shortlists next week.
The first prize-giving of the 'awards season' - ahead of the Critics’ Circle, the Laurence Olivier and Whatsonstage.com Awards (which opens public voting on nominations today) - the Evening Standard Awards are announced at a ceremony at the Royal Opera House on 23 November 2009.
The full longlist of contenders in this year’s 55th annual Evening Standard Theatre Awards, which covers openings up until the end of October 2009, are (in no particular order):
THE NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS
THE NED SHERRIN AWARD FOR BEST MUSICAL
THE MILTON SHULMAN AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING NEWCOMER
THE CHARLES WINTOUR AWARD FOR MOST PROMISING PLAYWRIGHT