Over 600 guests descended on the London Hippodrome, home of La Clique, in the heart of the West End on Friday (5 December 2008) for the star-studded launch of the ninth annual Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre awards voted for by the paying public (See News, 5 Dec 2008). This year’s event was held in aid of our adopted charity for the 2009 Awards campaign, TheatreMAD (See Also Today’s Photos).

For the full list of 2009 nominations
& to vote, click here.

In the awards shortlists announced at the event, the Donmar Warehouse led the way with a total of 18 nominations for productions at its Covent Garden home base and in the West End, while the Royal Shakespeare Company also made a strong showing thanks to its epic staging of The Histories at the Roundhouse (with six nods) and to David Tennant’s turn in Hamlet (with two nominations even prior to its West End opening this week). In the musical categories, current hits Jersey Boys, Zorro and La Cage aux Folles all made strong showings.

Joining Friday’s celebrations were representatives from 2008’s biggest shows, including Jersey Boys, La Cage aux Folles, Piaf, Zorro, Imagine This, Marguerite, Never Forget, Eurobeat, Come Dancing, The Harder They Come, August: Osage County, Ivanov, Othello, Now or Later, No Man’s Land, Rain Man, Gethsemane, Creditors, The Female of the Species, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Black Watch, The Norman Conquests, The Histories, Fat Pig, The Importance of Being Earnest, Girl with a Pearl Earring and many many more.


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Amongst those individual artists who attended the launch party were: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Alexandra Silber, Amy Morton, Andrea Riseborough, Anita Dobson, Bertie Carvel, Beverley Klein, Con O’Neill, Connie Fisher, Daniel Evans, Darrell D’Silva, David Babani, David Bradley, David Calder, David Lan, Deanna Dunagan, Desmond Barrit, Doreen Mantle, Dominic Dromgoole, Don Black, Elena Roger, Ella Smith, Frances Ruffelle, Gary Cole, Gregory Doran, Hannah Waddingham, Ian H Watkins, Ian McNeice, Janie Dee, Jean Marsh, Jenny Jules, Jeremiah James, Jeff Perry, Jonathan Munby, Joseph Marcell, Julian Ovenden, Kate Fleetwood, Kate O’Mara, Katy Stephens, Kerry Michael, Kevin R McNally, Leila Benn Harris, Lesli Margherita, Lex Shrapnel, Lindsay Duncan, Lindsay Duncan, Lisa Dillon, Liz Robertson, Lorraine Bruce, Lyndsey Marshal, Malcolm Sinclair, Mark Gatiss, Matthew Bourne, Melly Still, Michael Blakemore, Michael Simkins, Nadine Marshall, Nadira Murray, Natalie Casey, Nick Cavaliere, Nicholas Kent, Nigel Lindsay, Nigel Planer, Nina Soderquist, Noma Dumezweni, Owen Teale, Paula Wilcox, Peter Polycarpou, Polly Stenham, Rachel Tucker, Ray Panthaki, Robert Bathurst, Rolan Bell, Roy Williams, Rupert Goold, Ruthie Henshall, Sally Ann Triplett, Sam Buntrock, Samuel West, Simon Williams, Sophia Ragavelas, Steven Berkoff, Summer Strallen, Suzanne Shaw, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Tim Pigott-Smith, Tom Hiddleston, Tom Piper, Tracie Bennett, as well as myriad producers and other leading figures from the world of theatre.

Entertainment & campaign announcements

Those stars were in addition to those taking part in the launch itself. Chat show host Graham Norton (who makes his stage debut next month in La Cage aux Folles), Mel Giedroyc (who, after this year’s Eurobeat, returns to the stage in March in New Boy with Nicholas Hoult), Michael Ball (who won the 2008 Best Actor in a Musical prize for Hairspray, which he stars in at the Shaftesbury Theatre) and the flamboyant cabaret artistes of La Clique helped read the shortlists.

There were also performances from Lesley Garrett (singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel, which opened last week at the Savoy Theatre) and Jersey Boys Ryan Molloy, Stephen Ashfield, Glenn Carter and Philip Bulcock (performing a medley of Four Seasons classics).

As part of the presentation, La Clique’s Ursula Martinez explained that the Hippodrome is currently under threat of being turned into a casino, for which a licence has been granted (See News, 20 Nov 2008) – a move that flies in the face of the Hippodrome’s historic past and leaves La Clique, the venue’s first resident company in 35 years, homeless. The industry audience reacted with boos – and cheers of support for the planned fight-back campaign.

Friday’s launch party was held in aid of this year’s adopted charity, TheatreMAD (Theatre: Make a Difference). TheatreMAD and the Make A Difference Trust have been founded this year to support those living with HIV, AIDS and other long-term conditions who are facing hardship. Through their programme of Midnight Matinees of hit West End shows, Late Night Cabarets, the World AIDS Day Theatre Bucket Collection Appeal as well as one-off Gala events, they also raise funds to support those in need who have worked in theatre on-stage, front of house and back stage.

For the full list of 2009 nominations and to vote, click here.