The nominations in the ninth annual Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards were announced today (5 December 2008) at a star-studded event at the Hippodrome in London’s West End. The Theatregoers’ Choice Awards is the only major theatre prize-giving decided by the public, who vote online at here at awards.whatsonstage.com. This year, over 4,000 people took part in the nominations phase of the judging process, with many thousands more expected to vote from today for the eventual winners.

Following its success last month at the Evening Standard Awards, the Donmar Warehouse continues to lead the way with a phenomenal 18 nominations in this year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards shortlists, including six nods for Ivanov, five apiece for The Chalk Garden and Othello, four for Piaf and one for the overall launch of the high-profile, year-long Donmar West End season at Wyndham’s Theatre.

Only two other productions match Ivanov’s half-dozen nominations haul: the Royal Shakespeare Company’s epic eight-play Histories cycle at the Roundhouse and Menier Chocolate Factory revival of Broadway musical comedy La Cage aux Folles, now transferred to the West End’s Playhouse Theatre.

In one of the most hotly contested categories this year, two Donmar leading men, Ivanov’s Kenneth Branagh and Othello’s Chiwetel Ejiofor, face stiff competition for Best Actor in a Play from Adam Godley (Rain Man), Eddie Redmayne (Now or Later), Ian McDiarmid (Six Characters in Search of an Author) and, nominated jointly, the Old Vic’s high-octane Speed the Plow “double act”, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum.

Meanwhile, the Donmar’s co-stars from The Chalk Garden, Penelope Wilton and Margaret Tyzack, who shared the Evening Standard actress prize, are nominated separately for the Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Actress in a Play, competing with two pill-popping performances, from Lindsay Duncan (That Face) and this year’s Tony Award winner, American Deanna Dunagan (August: Osage County), as well as Katy Stephens (The Histories) and Lesley Sharp (Harper Regan).

In the musical categories, this year’s big Broadway import, Four Seasons hit Jersey Boys, receives four strong nominations, including Best New Musical. And, though it recently fell foul of critics, the so-called “Holocaust musical” Imagine This proves it has audience support with four nominations of its own, while its prematurely closed predecessor at the New London theatre earns two, one of them for former reality TV star Darius Danesh. The Theatre Royal Haymarket’s premiere of Michel Legrand’s Marguerite also attracts four nominations, while Zorro swings in with five.

Danesh and Jersey Boys’ Frankie Valli, Ryan Molloy, are in the running for Best Actor in a Musical alongside Marguerite’s Julian Ovenden, Zorro’s Matt Rawle, La Cage aux FollesDouglas Hodge and The Harder They Come’s Rolan Bell. In the Best Actress in a Musical category, Connie Fisher, a former Newcomer of the Year for The Sound of Music, is nominated for They’re Playing Our Song and competes against Elena Roger (Piaf), Leila Benn Harris (Imagine This), Lisa O'Hare (Gigi), Ruthie Henshall (Marguerite) and Sofia Escobar (the 50th anniversary production of West Side Story).

Even before his London transfer, David Tennant gets a shortlists look-in with two nominations. Hamlet, which opens at the West End’s Novello Theatre next week, is nominated for Best Regional Production following its Stratford-upon-Avon season, while the frenzy around the Doctor Who star’s return to the stage to take the title role in the RSC production is up for Theatre Event of the Year.

In that always quirky category, Tennant faces competition from the RSC’s Histories, the launch of Donmar West End, the in-the-round transformation of the Old Vic, adult cabaret La Clique’s London debut at the now-threatened Hippodrome and the widespread protests over Arts Council funding cutbacks which attracted headlines at the beginning of the year.

Other big names up for awards include: Hollywood’s Josh Hartnett, Derren Brown, Eddie Izzard, Vanessa Redgrave, Britain’s Got Talent’s George Sampson, Daniel Boys, Samuel West (a previous Best Actor winner, now nominated for Best Director), Barbara Jefford, Sophie Thompson, Douglas Henshall, Kevin J McNally, Tom Hiddleston, Linda Thorson, Tracie Bennett (the 2008 Best Supporting Actress in a Musical winner for Hairspray and nominated again, in the same category, for La Cage aux Folles), David Bradley, Maria Friedman, Neil LaBute, Yasmina Reza, Michael Grandage, Michael Boyd, Rupert Goold, Rob Howell (the 2008 Best Set Designer winner for The Lord of the Rings and nominated again, in the same category, for The Norman Conquests), Matthew Bourne, and former Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies (nominated for Newcomer of the Year for his musical writing and performing debut, Come Dancing).

The race is now on to decide the eventual winners in the 2009 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Award, with voting continuing from today (Friday 5 December) until the end of January and results announced in the week commencing 9 February 2009, ahead of our Awards Concert, which will take place on Sunday 15 February 2009 at the West End’s Prince of Wales theatre. Check back on Monday for full photo and TV coverage from today’s star-studded launch party, held in aid of our adopted charity TheatreMAD at the Hippodrome!

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THE FULL LIST OF 2008/9 NOMINATIONS

The SPOTLIGHT Best Actress in a Play

  • Deanna Dunagan – August: Osage County at the NT Lyttelton
  • Katy Stephens – The Histories, RSC at the Roundhouse
  • Lesley Sharp – Harper Regan at the NT Cottesloe
  • Lindsay Duncan – That Face at the Duke of York’s
  • Margaret Tyzack – The Chalk Garden at the Donmar Warehouse
  • Penelope Wilton – The Chalk Garden at the Donmar Warehouse

    The SPOTLIGHT Best Actor in a Play

  • Adam Godley – Rain Man at the Apollo
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor – Othello at the Donmar Warehouse
  • Eddie Redmayne – Now or Later at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs
  • Ian McDiarmid – Six Characters in Search of an Author at the Gielgud
  • Kenneth Branagh – Ivanov, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s
  • Kevin Spacey & Jeff Goldblum – Speed the Plow at the Old Vic

    Best Supporting Actress in a Play

  • Barbara Jefford – Pygmalion at the Old Vic
  • Denise Gough – Six Characters in Search of an Author at the Gielgud
  • Michelle Terry – The Man Who Had All the Luck at the Donmar Warehouse
  • Phoebe Nicholls – The Vortex at the Apollo & Waste at the Almeida
  • Sophie Thompson – The Female of the Species at the Vaudeville
  • Susan Engel – Her Naked Skin at the NT Olivier

    Best Supporting Actor in a Play

  • Douglas Henshall – The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at the Almeida
  • Kevin R McNally – Ivanov, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s
  • Malcolm Sinclair – Rosmersholm at the Almeida
  • Paul Ready – Major Barbara at the NT Olivier
  • Pip Carter – Gethsemane at the NT Cottesloe
  • Tom Hiddleston – Othello at the Donmar Warehouse & Ivanov, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s

    The VIAGOGO Best Actress in a Musical

  • Connie Fisher – They’re Playing Our Song at the Menier Chocolate Factory
  • Elena Roger – Piaf at the Donmar Warehouse & Vaudeville
  • Leila Benn Harris – Imagine This at the New London
  • Lisa O’Hare – Gigi at the Open Air
  • Ruthie Henshall – Marguerite at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
  • Sofia Escobar – West Side Story at Sadler’s Wells

    The SEE TICKETS Best Actor in a Musical

  • Darius Danesh – Gone With the Wind at the New London
  • Douglas Hodge – La Cage aux Folles at the Menier Chocolate Factory & Playhouse
  • Julian Ovenden – Marguerite at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
  • Matt Rawle – Zorro at the Garrick
  • Rolan Bell – The Harder They Come at the Barbican & Playhouse
  • Ryan Molloy – Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward

    Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

  • Lesli Margherita – Zorro at the Garrick
  • Linda Thorson – Gigi at the Open Air
  • Lorraine Bruce – Piaf at the Donmar Warehouse & Vaudeville
  • Natasha Yvette Williams – Gone With the Wind at the New London
  • Sophia Ragavelas – Never Forget at the Savoy
  • Tracie Bennett – La Cage aux Folles at the Playhouse

    Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

  • Alexander Hanson – Marguerite at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
  • Jason Pennycooke – La Cage aux Folles at the Menier Chocolate Factory & Playhouse
  • Luke Evans – Piaf at the Donmar Warehouse & Vaudeville
  • Michael Matus – Imagine This at the New London
  • Nick Cavaliere – Zorro at the Garrick
  • Stephen Ashfield – Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward

    Best Solo Performance

  • David Bradley – The Quiz at Trafalgar Studios
  • Derren Brown – Derren Brown Mindreader: An Evening of Wonders at the Garrick
  • Eddie Izzard – Stripped at the Lyric
  • Maria Friedman – Maria Friedman: Re-Arranged at the Menier Chocolate Factory
  • Nadine Marshall – Random at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs
  • Vanessa Redgrave – The Year of Magical Thinking at the NT Lyttelton

    The AMBASSADOR TICKETS Best Ensemble Performance

  • August: Osage County – at the NT Lyttelton
  • Black Watch – National Theatre of Scotland at the Barbican
  • Brief Encounter – at The Cinema, Haymarket
  • Into the Hoods – at the Novello
  • The Histories – RSC at the Roundhouse
  • The Norman Conquests – at the Old Vic

    Best Takeover in a Role

  • Daniel Boys – Avenue Q at the Noël Coward
  • Denis Lawson – La Cage aux Folles at the Playhouse
  • Kelly Brook – Fat Pig at the Comedy
  • Rachel Tucker – We Will Rock You at the Dominion
  • Summer Strallen – The Sound of Music at the London Palladium
  • Suzanne Shaw – Chicago at the Cambridge

    The NICK HERN BOOKS Best New Play

  • August: Osage County by Tracy Letts – at the NT Lyttelton
  • Black Watch by Gregory Burke – National Theatre of Scotland at the Barbican
  • Now or Later by Christopher Shinn – at the Royal Court Downstairs
  • That Face by Polly Stenham – at the Duke of York’s
  • The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall – at the NT Cottesloe
  • Under the Blue Sky by David Eldridge – at the Duke of York’s

    Best New Comedy

  • Fat Pig by Neil LaBute – at Trafalgar Studios & the Comedy
  • God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza – at the Gielgud
  • Lifecoach by Nick Reed – at Trafalgar Studios
  • The Female of the Species by Joanna Murray-Smith – at the Vaudeville
  • The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh – at the NT Cottesloe
  • Well by Lisa Kron – at Trafalgar Studios

    The WALDORF HILTON Best New Musical

  • Eurobeat by Craig Christie & Andrew Patterson – at the Novello
  • Imagine This by Shuki Levy, David Goldsmith & Glenn Berenbeim – at the New London
  • Jersey Boys by Bob Gaudio, Bob Crewe, Rick Elice & Marshall Brickman – at the Prince Edward
  • Marguerite by Michel Legrand, Herbert Kretzmer, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg & Jonathan Kent – at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
  • Never Forget by Guy Jones, Daniel Brocklehurst & Ed Curtis – at the Savoy
  • Zorro by The Gipsy Kings, John Cameron, Stephen Clark & Helen Edmundson – at the Garrick

    The EMG Best Play Revival

  • Ivanov – Donmar West End at Wyndham’s
  • Six Characters in Search of an Author – at the Gielgud
  • Speed the Plow – at the Old Vic
  • The Chalk Garden – at the Donmar Warehouse
  • The Norman Conquests – at the Old Vic
  • Waste – at the Almeida

    The TICKETMASTER Best Musical Revival

  • Candide – at the London Coliseum
  • Gigi – at the Open Air
  • La Cage aux Folles – at the Menier Chocolate Factory & Playhouse
  • Piaf – at the Donmar Warehouse & Vaudeville
  • They’re Playing Our Song – at the Menier Chocolate Factory
  • West Side Story – at Sadler’s Wells

    Best Shakespearean Production

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – at Shakespeare’s Globe
  • Much Ado About Nothing – at the NT Olivier
  • Othello – at the Donmar Warehouse
  • The Histories – RSC at the Roundhouse
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor – at Shakespeare’s Globe
  • Twelfth Night – at the Tricycle

    The SEATCHOICE Best Director

  • Emma Rice – Brief Encounter at The Cinema, Haymarket
  • Michael Grandage – Othello & The Chalk Garden at the Donmar Warehouse & Ivanov, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s
  • Matthew Warchus – The Norman Conquests at the Old Vic
  • Michael Boyd – The Histories, RSC at the Roundhouse
  • Rupert Goold – The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at the Almeida, Six Characters in Search of an Author at the Gielgud & No Man’s Land at the Duke of York’s
  • Samuel West – Dealer’s Choice at Trafalgar Studios & Waste at the Almeida

    Best Set Designer

  • Eugene Lee – Imagine This at the New London
  • Klara Zieglerova – Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward
  • Miriam Buether – In the Red & Brown Water at the Young Vic
  • Neil Murray – Brief Encounter at The Cinema, Haymarket
  • Rob Howell – The Norman Conquests at the Old Vic
  • Tom Piper – The Histories, RSC at the Roundhouse

    The WHITE LIGHT Best Lighting Designer

  • Chahine Yavroyan – Relocated at the Royal Court Upstairs & Wig Out! at the Royal Court Downstairs
  • Jean Kalman – The Year of Magical Thinking at the NT Lyttelton & In the Red & Brown Water at the Young Vic
  • Malcolm Rippeth – Brief Encounter at The Cinema, Haymarket & Six Characters in Search of an Author at the Gielgud
  • Mark Henderson – Under the Blue Sky at the Duke of York’s, Marguerite & The Sea at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
  • Neil Austin – Piaf at the Donmar Warehouse & Vaudeville, No Man’s Land at the Duke of York’s & Oedipus at the NT Olivier
  • Paule Constable – Othello & The Chalk Garden at the Donmar Warehouse & Ivanov, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s

    Best Choreographer

  • Akram Khan – in-i at the NT Lyttelton
  • Karen Bruce – Never Forget at the Savoy
  • Kate Prince + ZooNation – Into the Hoods at the Novello
  • Lynne Page – La Cage aux Folles at the Menier Chocolate Factory & Playhouse
  • Matthew Bourne – Dorian Gray at Sadler’s Wells
  • Rafael Amargo – Zorro at the Garrick

    The DEWYNTERS London Newcomer of the Year

  • Ella Smith – Fat Pig at Trafalgar Studios & the Comedy
  • George Sampson – Into the Hoods at the Novello
  • Joseph Mawle – The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at the Almeida
  • Josh Hartnett – Rain Man at the Apollo
  • Ray Davies – Come Dancing at Theatre Royal Stratford East
  • Tarell Alvin McCraney – In the Red & Brown Water & The Brothers Size at the Young Vic & Wig Out! at the Royal Court Downstairs

    The MOBIUS Best Off-West End Production

  • An Enemy of the People – at the Arcola
  • Come Dancing – at Theatre Royal Stratford East
  • Piranha Heights – at Soho Theatre
  • Plague Over England – at the Finborough
  • The Vaclav Havel season – at the Orange Tree
  • The White Devil – at the Menier Chocolate Factory

    The TARGET LIVE Best Regional Production

  • Calendar Girls – at Chichester Festival Theatre & on tour
  • Hamlet – RSC at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • On the Waterfront – at Nottingham Playhouse & the Edinburgh Fringe
  • Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi – at the Liverpool Playhouse
  • The Glass Menagerie – at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
  • The Music Man – at Chichester Festival Theatre

    The AKA Theatre Event of the Year

  • David Tennant returning to the stage in Hamlet for the RSC
  • The launch of the Donmar West End season at Wyndham’s
  • La Clique’s London debut at the Hippodrome
  • The in-the-round transformation of the Old Vic for The Norman Conquests
  • The RSC’s staging of The Histories at the Roundhouse
  • Widespread protests over arts funding cutbacks

    Honourable mentions:

  • Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 60th birthday celebration in Hyde Park
  • Robert Lepage’s nine-hour Lipsynch at the Barbican
  • Daniel Radcliffe & James Corden’s onstage kiss at the 2008 Theatregoers’ Choice Awards Concert

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