The shortlists have been drawn up based on submitions made by theatregoers throughout November. Over 50,000 nominations where received this year, making a new milestone for the awards as they enter their 13th year.
For a full list of nominees and to vote - click here
The Bodyguard, based on the 1980s film starring the late Whitney Houston (who passed away in February), leaps off the starting block with a total of six nominations. Though only officially premiered this week at the West End’s Adelphi Theatre, theatregoers have been nominating it in droves during its month-long preview period to propel it into contention for prime categories, including Best New Musical and Best Actress and Best Actor in a Musical for stars Heather Headley and Lloyd Owen, who play the parts taken on screen by Houston and Kevin Costner respectively. It also earns nods for Best Director (Thea Sharrock), Best Set Designer (Tim Hatley) and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical (Debbie Kurup).
In the Best New Musical stakes, The Bodyguard faces West End competition from another screen-to-stager, the adaptation of 1935 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers classic Top Hat, which receives five nominations overall including Best Actor in a Musical for Strictly Come Dancing victor Tom Chambers. Other New Musical contenders hail from the thriving fringe – Daddy Long Legs from the new St James Theatre, Soho Cinders from Soho Theatre and Sweet Smell of Success from the Arcola, all three of which are also recognised in this year’s newly introduced category for Best Original Music, sponsored by Autograph – as well as the West Yorkshire Playhouse transfer of Loserville, with music by one-time Busted band member James Bourne.
A selection of this year's nominees
Elsewhere, the key musical categories are dominated by another regional powerhouse, Chichester Festival Theatre, which transferred three massive musicals to the West End this year – Singin' in the Rain (with six nominations), Sweeney Todd and Kiss Me, Kate (with five apiece). The three productions go head-to-head-to-head for Best Musical Revival honours, and their co-leads compete with each other and The Bodyguard for Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musical stripes: Singin' in the Rain's Adam Cooper and Scarlett Strallen versus Sweeney's Michael Ball (a two-time Whatsonstage.com Award winner already) and Imelda Staunton versus Kiss Me, Kate's Alex Bourne and Hannah Waddingham.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, which has played the O2 and stadia around the country and returns next year, Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, just opened at the 150-seat Menier Chocolate Factory, and the tenth anniversary production of Boy George’s Taboo at a nightclub in Brixton round out the Musical Revival competition. Jesus Christ Superstar also earns performance nominations for Tim Minchin (who last year nabbed Newcomer of the Year for penning Matilda The Musical) and Melanie C, whose Spice Girl hits fuel forthcoming new musical Viva Forever! (a likely contender in next year’s Awards).
Olympic flame still burning bright
The adaptation of the 1981 film Chariots of Fire keeps the Olympic pulse racing with five nominations, including Best New Play, Best Director (Edward Hall), Best Set Designer for Miriam Buether’s onstage track and Best Ensemble Performance for the super-fit company who race round it every night at the Gielgud Theatre.
The thrill of London 2012 also lives on with a nomination for the hugely theatrical spectacle of the Olympics Opening Ceremony, masterminded by Danny Boyle, who last year scooped Best Director in the Whatsonstage.com Awards for Frankenstein. Also shortlisted for Theatre Event of the Year are the Globe to Globe season, as part of the Cultural Olympiad’s World Shakespeare Festival, the opening of the state-of-the-art St James Theatre in Victoria and the art-imitating-life world premiere of Susan Boyle bio-musical I Dreamed a Dream.
Curiouser and curiouser
In the play categories, the National Theatre’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is ahead of the pack with a total of six nominations, including Best New Play, Best Director (Marianne Elliott) and Best Actor in a Play for Luke Treadaway as the Asperger’s syndrome protagonist. Following its sell-out run this year at the NT, Curious Incident transfers to the West End’s Apollo Theatre in March.
Curious Incident (adapted by Simon Stephens) and Chariots of Fire (adapted by Mike Bartlett) compete for Best New Play laurels with four original pieces: Howard Brenton’s 55 Days, Nick Payne’s Evening Standard winner Constellations (now transferred from the Royal Court to the West End’s Duke of York’s Theatre), Lucy Prebble’s Enron follow-up for Headlong, The Effect, and Lolita Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet, which starred her husband and Best Actor nominee Adrian Lester at the Tricycle Theatre this autumn.
Also clocking in Curious-style with six play-going nods is the bard double bill of Richard III and Twelfth Night, performed by a cross-cast company and currently running at the Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue, following a summer season at Shakespeare’s Globe. Each is nominated individually for Best Shakespearean Production, while Jerusalem star Mark Rylance is up for Best Actor jointly for his title performance in Richard III and his cross-dressing reprisal of Olivia in Twelfth Night, and Stephen Fry, making a stage comeback after 17 years, vies for Best Supporting Actor in a Play for his Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Rylance’s return to the Globe, where he was the inaugural artistic director (1995-2005), is also shortlisted for Theatre Event of the Year.
Acting heavyweights slug it out
Look no further than the Best Actor and Best Actress in a Play fields for evidence of the versatility of British talent on stage and screen. Amongst the ladies, Julie Walters (The Last of the Haussmans), Doctor Who star Billie Piper (The Effect), Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins (Constellations) and Evening Standard winner Hattie Morahan (A Doll’s House) battle it out with two former Whatsonstage.com Award winners, Sheridan Smith (Hedda Gabler) and Jill Halfpenny (Abigail’s Party). Smith and Halfpenny appeared onstage together in the 2010 Broadway transfer of Legally Blonde, for which they won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, respectively at both the Whatsonstage.com and Olivier Awards.
For Best Actor, Mark Rylance, Luke Treadaway and Adrian Lester encounter formidable competition from Rupert Everett (The Judas Kiss), David Haig (The Madness of George III) and David Suchet (Long Day’s Journey into Night), who won the same prize for All My Sons two years ago.
In the London Newcomer of the Year category, Will Young (Cabaret) and Rob Brydon (A Chorus of Disapproval), who both made their West End acting debuts this year, are nominated alongside Lolita Chakrabarti and Maria Friedman, established actresses who have turned their hands to playwriting and directing with Red Velvet and Merrily We Roll Along respectively, and Alex Lawther and Joshua Miles, two young actors just launching their careers.
Other big names on this year’s shortlists include: Mark Gatiss (Best Supporting Actor for The Recruiting Officer and 55 Days), Tim McInnerny (Best Supporting Actor for Scenes from an Execution), Sophie Thompson (Best Supporting Actress for The Physicists and She Stoops to Conquer), Natalie Casey (Best Supporting Actress for Abigail’s Party), Helen McCrory (Best Supporting Actress for The Last of the Haussmans), septuagenarian Sian Phillips (Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for Cabaret), Roger Rees (Best Solo Performance for What You Will), Cillian Murphy (Best Solo Performance for Misterman), Broadway’s Idina Menzel (Best Solo Performance), Simon Callow (Best Solo Performance for A Christmas Carol, now returned to the Arts Theatre), Danielle Hope and Ramin Karimloo (both up for Best Takeover in a Role for Les Misérables).
Scores on the doors and polls open
Final tallies for shows with multiple nominations include: The Bodyguard, Singin’ in the Rain, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Twelfth Night/Richard III (six each); Jesus Christ Superstar, Sweeney Todd, Chariots of Fire, Top Hat, Abigail’s Party and Kiss Me, Kate (five each); Constellations (four); Daddy Long Legs, Hedda Gabler, The Ladykillers, Les Misérables, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Merrily We Roll Along, Red Velvet, Soho Cinders, Sweet Smell of Success, Taboo, The Effect, The Last of the Haussmans (three each); A Doll’s House, Cabaret, Julius Caesar, Let It Be, Our Boys, People, Scenes from an Execution, She Stoops to Conquer, The Judas Kiss, The Recruiting Officer and Wicked (two each).
As for venues and theatre companies, the National Theatre with its three-auditoria, year-round repertoire once again dominates the shortlists with 25 nominations across some 13 productions, followed by: Chichester Festival (with a whopping 18 nominations); Hampstead Theatre (nine); Menier Chocolate Factory, the Old Vic (eight each); Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal Court (seven each); the Royal Shakespeare Company, St James Theatre (five each); the Young Vic, Headlong (four each); the Tricycle, Soho Theatre, the Arcola Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse (three apiece).
Voting opens today (Friday 7 December) at 2pm and closes at midnight on 31 January. Winners will be revealed at the Awards Ceremony and Concert, hosted by comedians Rufus Hound and Mel Giedroyc, at the West End’s Palace Theatre on Sunday 17 February.
Last year more than 70,000 theatregoers voted for their favorites. The 2013 Whatsonstage.com Awards are held in aid of this year’s adopted charity InterAct, which provides disabled and disadvantaged young people with real opportunities to develop valuable life skills through drama and music workshops.
This year's honourable mentions:
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