The shortlists are drawn up based on nominations submitted by theatregoers. Nearly 6,500 people took part in the initial phase of the Awards campaign this year, marking a new record (and nearly 2,500 more than last year).
The guest presenters helping us to announce the nominations are Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’s Broadway stars James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad and Sanaa Lathan and, on behalf of this year's adopted charity Masterclass, Jeremy Irons. There will also be live musical performances from Sister Act star Patina Miller (singing “Fabulous, Baby”), the stars of Christmas with The Rat Pack and Jest End, performing a sketch specially written for the tenth birthday of the Whatsonstage.com Awards.
The 26 Awards categories include standards such as Best Actor, Best Actress, Best New Play and Best New Musical as well as less conventional fields like Best Ensemble Performance, Best Off-West End Production and Theatre Event of the Year.
This year, for the first time, there’s also a new category for Best West End Show, sponsored by ticket agency Groupline (See News, 12 Nov 2009). Unlike the main Awards fields, which apply to new productions opened during the Awards year from 1 December 2008 to 30 November 2009, any current West End production, including all of the long-running blockbusters, are eligible for Best West End Show.
After the launch party, the race is on to decide the eventual Whatsonstage.com Award winners, with voting continuing until the end of January. Results are announced and awards presented in front of a live audience of theatregoer voters at our Winners’ Concert on Sunday 14 February 2010 at the West End’s Prince of Wales Theatre.
Our charity & sponsors
Both Awards events are held in aid of this year’s adopted charity, Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass, which gives young people the chance to learn from and be inspired by leading artists (See News, 29 Sep 2009). Set up by the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1998, the hugely successful Masterclass programme has now welcomed over 40,000 people aged 17-30. Events are given free of charge and occur at least one Friday a month throughout the year, focusing on all aspects of theatre from acting and directing to writing and producing.
Though Masterclass events are designed for those at the start of their careers, theatregoers and others, of whatever age, are also welcome. The Masterclass Benefactor scheme (priced £55 per annum – reduced to £45 for members of the Whatsonstage.com Theatre Club) has been set up for this purpose. It includes: access to over 12 events a year, an annual friends’ party and special ticket offers for Theatre Royal Haymarket productions. Details can be found at www.masterclass.org.uk.
For more information on the charity and our corporate sponsors in relation to the Awards, please visit our awards microsite later this week.
WITH THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS: