Over 500 guests descended on Café de Paris on Friday (1 December 2006) for the star-studded launch of the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre awards voted for by the paying public (See News, 1 Dec 2006). The event - held on World AIDS Day in aid of AIDs education charity S.A.F.E. - also marked the tenth birthday of Whatsonstage.com as the UK’s leading theatre website.

In the awards shortlists announced at the event, The Sound of Music led the way with eight nominations and its team – including leading lady Connie Fisher (this year’s only two-time nominee, in the running for Best Actress in a Musical and London Newcomer of the Year), Lesley Garrett, Alexander Hanson, Ian Gelder and director Jeremy Sams – were out in force to celebrate.

Other productions well represented at Friday’s event included: Cabaret, Caroline or Change, Daddy Cool, Dirty Dancing, Donkeys’ Years, Evita, Footloose, Frost/Nixon, Hay Fever, Porgy & Bess, Rock ‘n’ Roll, See How They Run, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Spamalot, Summer and Smoke, Sunday in the Park with George, The 39 Steps, The Voysey Inheritance, Therese Raquin and Wicked as well as television’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?.

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For Whatsonstage.com TV, our camera crew was on hand to capture the glamour and glitz of the day and to talk to nominees and other partygoers about how they felt about an event that has become a key part of the annual theatrical calendar.

Presenters, performers & other stars

In announcing the awards nominations, Whatsonstage.com editorial director Terri Paddock and chief critic Michael Coveney were joined by guest presenters Richard Schiff (from TV’s The West Wing) and Richard Fleeshman, who will both be making their West End debuts in the new year in Glen Berger’s Underneath the Lintel and the Sherman Brothers’ musical comedy Over Here respectively. When asked why he wanted to bring Underneath the Lintel to London after its regional success in the US earlier this year, Schiff said he had been invited to take the solo show to cities around the world, including Los Angeles and New York but he only wanted to bring it to the West End – according to Schiff, doing theatre in LA felt like giving an audition, doing it on Broadway felt like showing off but doing it London felt like a “pure” experience.

In addition to the guest presenters, a special concert was mounted, also celebrating 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. Due to an injury, Spamalot’s Lady of the Lake Hannah Waddingham had to pull out at the last minute. The final concert line-up comprised (See News, 10 Nov 2006): Daddy Cool’s Melanie La Barrie, introduced by her fellow cast member and So Solid Crew rapper Harvey, doing “Can’t Stand the Rain”; Evita’s Lorna Want singing “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”, accompanied by fellow cast members Leila Benn Harris, Jodie Jacobs and Robyn North; How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? semi-finalist Abi Finley, now on stage in Tim Rice’s Blondel, reprising her performance of Cabaret’s “Maybe This Time”, one of her showstopper’s from the TV talent competition; and Sheridan Smith and Paul Keating doing their duet “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors. The concert, produced by Stuart Piper, was staged by Sunday in the Park with George's Tara Wilkinson with Dancing in the Streets' Iain Vince Gatt as musical supervisor.

Amongst the other partygoers who attended on Friday were: Sheila Hancock, Alan Cumming, Michael Sheen, Reece Shearsmith, Olivia Williams, Rhashan Stone, Chris New, Daniel Evans, Nigel Planer, Miriam Margolyes, Adam Garcia, Tonya Pinkins, Christopher Sieber, Nigel Planer, Clarke Peters, Cornell John, OT Fagbenle, Janet McTeer, Janie Dee, Chris Carmack, Matthew Marsh, Adie Allen, Clive Rowe, Chris Grierson, Laura Michelle Kelly, David Lan, Rosamund Pike, Trevor Nunn, Conleth Hill, Jim Norton, Andrew Garfield, Ray Panthaki, Dawn Hope, Sally Ann Triplett, Dominic Cooke, Nina Raine, David Farley, Dominic Rowan, Martin Sherman, Harriet Thorpe, Rufus Norris, Javier De Frutos, Katrina Lindsay, Sally Dexter, Philip Whitchurch, Anna Francolini, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Perry Millward, Helen Schlesinger, Valda Aviks, Hilton McRae, Charlotte Randle, Matt Rawle, Nadia Coote, Tim Fountain, Amanda Harris, Sonia Friedman, Lisa Dillon, Susannah Wise, Jay Webb, June Watson, Tom Goodman-Hill, Michael Simkins, Hamish Clark, Jake Nightingale, Talulah Riley, Sam Buntrock, Alasdair Harvey, Rupert Degas, Simon Gregor, Alan Cox, Kim Medcalf, Nick Fletcher, Blake Ritson, Hattie Morahan, Andrew Woodall, Mark Hadfield, Charlotte Emmerson, Steve Thompson, Anthony Drewe, Grant Olding, Ben Barnes, Steven Webb, Ciara Janson, Anton Du Beke, Michelle Feraday, Gavin Brocker, Giles Terera, Giovanni Spano, Richard Wilson, Issy van Randwyck, Jonathan Bailey, Karl Collins, Nicky Henson, Martyn Ellis, Noma Dumezweni, Joseph Mydell, Monica Dolan, Sarah Ball, Sirine Saba, Tim Rogers, Celia Graham, Tim Fountain, Natalie Walter, Nora Cole, Tamara Harvey, William Gaunt, Philip Voss, Angela Down, Colin Teevan, Kate O’Toole, Sarah Woodward, William Hoyland and How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? finalists Simona Armstrong and Laura Sicurello.

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 include: Superbreak, the market leader for short breaks throughout the UK; Nick Hern Books, the UK’s leading independent theatre publishers and performing rights licensors; celebrity hairdresser Stuart Phillips; and Shakespeare4Kidz, the national Shakespeare company for children and young people. This year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards covers the year from 1 December 2005. Voting for the eventual winners is now live and continues throughout December and January with results announced in early February 2007. CLICK HERE TO VOTE NOW!


MANY THANKS TO THIS YEAR'S SPONSORS, INCLUDING: