The shortlists for the eighth annual Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre awards wholly voted for by the paying public, are announced today (7 December 2007) in a star-studded lunchtime party held at Café De Paris, in the heart of the West End. At 2.00pm, the shortlists will be published online here, with voting for the eventual winners opening from 5.15pm this afternoon.

Joining this afternoon’s celebrations are representatives from 2007’s biggest shows, including Hairspray, Joseph & the Amazing Techicolor Dreamcoat, Grease, The Lord of the Rings, Fiddler on the Roof, Boeing-Boeing, Rent, The Country Wife, War Horse, Macbeth, King Lear, Rhinoceros, The Arsonists, Glengarry Glen Ross, Dealer’s Choice, Desperately Seeking Susan, The History Boys, The Drowsy Chaperone, Little Shop of Horrors, Landscape with Weapon, Elling, All About My Mother, Bad Girls, The Pain and the Itch, The Glass Menagerie, The Entertainer, Swimming with Sharks and Parade as well as television’s Any Dream Will Do and Grease Is the Word.

Amongst those individual artists due to attend the launch party are: Angela Rippon, Anthony Andrews, Belinda Lang, Ben James-Ellis, Connie Fisher, Daniel Boys, David Bedella, Elena Roger, Helen Blackman, Jean Marsh, Jennifer Ellison, Joe Penhall, John Simm, Kate Fleetwood, Kerry Ellis, Leanne Jones, Lee Mead, Lia Williams, Lynda Baron, Lynda Bellingham, Mark Gatiss, Matthew Marsh, Michael Praed, Neil Stuke, Nicole Faraday, Nigel Lindsay, Pam Ferris, Patrick Kielty, Peter Eyre, Preeya Kalidas, Ralf Little, Robert Bathurst, Roger Michell, Roy Williams, Rupert Goold, Samuel West, Stephen Tompkinson, Summer Strallen, Susie Blake, Tracie Bennett, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Andrea Riseborough, Arthur Darvill, Bertie Carvel, Beverley Klein, Dianne Pilkington, Hildegard Bechtler, James Loye, Kerry Ellis, Lara Pulver, Laura Michelle Kelly, Lucy Briers, Michael Jibson, Michael Therriault, Mike Packer, Nick Stafford, Nicole Faraday, Nigel Lindsay, Peter Davison, Polly Stenham, Preeya Kalidas, Ralf Little, Ramin Karimloo, Rob Howell, Robert Bathurst, Samuel Adamson, Simon Bent, Steve Thompson, Aoife Mulholland, Amanda Drew, Amy Nuttall, Andy Nyman, Ben Turner, Graham Turner, Caroline O’Connor, Chris Grierson, Clint Dyer, Clive Carter, Danny Sapani, David Lan, Desmond Barrit, Ed Stoppard, Frances Ruffelle, Gareth Valentine, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, Graham Bickley, Jackie Clune, Jack Shepherd, Mark Rosenblatt, Janet Brown, Jimmy Akingbola, Javone Prince, Joanna Christie, Jonathan Harvey, Laura Wade, Lewis Bradley, Lindsay Posner, Lisa Dillon, Liz Crowther, Lloyd Owen, Lorraine Bruce, Lorraine Burroughs, Madeleine Lloyd Webber, Madhav Sharma, Malcolm Sinclair, Samuel Barnett, Ross Boatman, Jay Simpson, Stephen Wight, Mariah Gale, Michael Grandage, Monica Dolan, Nicolas Kent, Paul Baker, Peter Straker, Sally Dexter, Saskia Reeves, Siobhan Dillon, Stephen Tompkinson and Tamara Harvey, as well as myriad producers and other leading figures from the world of theatre.

Concert entertainment

In announcing today’s nominations, Whatsonstage.com is assisted by two very special guests: Elaine Paige OBE, the "first lady of British musical theatre", who returned to the West End stage earlier this year to take the title role in The Drowsy Chaperone; and Michael Ball, currently starring as Edna Turnblad in blockbuster Broadway musical import Hairspray. Our other guest presenters are Roger Lloyd Pack, now transferring to the West End in the Menier Chocolate Factory revival of Dealer's Choice and John Gordon Sinclair who opens next week in a new all-star revival of Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Absurd Person Singular and, on behalf of this year's adopted charity Mousetrap Theatre Projects, Janie Dee, currently starring in Shadowlands opposite Charles Dance.

As part of the nominations presentation, a short concert celebrating musical contributions to the 2007 West End year is also being held. In one of their first London stage performances, Teatro, impresario Jonathan Shalit’s new musical theatre answer to opera’s Il Divo, will sing Guys and Dolls standard “Luck Be a Lady” from their debut album, released on 26 November. The four-strong group comprises Stephen Rahman Hughes (of Bombay Dreams fame), Simon Bailey, Andrew Alexander and Jeremiah James. Teatro aims to capitalise on the mainstream interest generated in musical theatre by the success of this year’s duelling reality TV shows Any Dream Will Do and Grease Is the Word.

Two-time Olivier Award winner Henry Goodman will perform “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof, in which he plays Tevye in Lindsay Posner’s critically acclaimed Sheffield Crucible production, currently running at the Savoy Theatre.

Danny Bayne and Susan McFadden, who won the ITV’s Grease Is the Word to play the roles of Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski in the current revival of Grease at the Piccadilly Theatre, will duet one of the musical’s most enduring hits, “You’re the One That I Want”. And, in commemoration of The Phantom of the Opera’s 21st birthday, Robyn North and Leila Benn Harris, who share the role of Christine, will perform a special version of “Think of Me”. The concert is produced by Stuart Piper on behalf of Whatsonstage.com

Charity & sponsors

The Café de Paris event is held in aid of this year’s adopted charity, Mousetrap Theatre Projects, founded by Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen to give disadvantaged young people affordable access to the best of London’s live theatre. Every year, Mousetrap takes some 7,500 young people to the theatre. This year, the charity is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

First Magazine, the celebrity and lifestyle newsstand weekly recently launched by emap, is media partner for this year’s Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards. Our other headline sponsors indicate the strength of industry-wide support for the audience-decided awards. 2008 sponsors include: Superbreak, the market leader for short breaks, including theatre breaks, throughout the UK; the West End’s two largest marketing and advertising agencies, aka and Dewynters; Nick Hern Books, the UK’s leading independent theatre publishers and performing rights licensors; primary theatre and event ticketing providers, See Tickets and Ticketmaster; and St James’-based restaurant institution Franco’s. For more information on all of our sponsors, please visit our awards microsite.