Analysis: Sweeney, JCS & Bodyguard triumph at Whatsonstage.com Awards
The winners were revealed tonight (Sunday 17 February) of the annual Whatsonstage.com Awards, the only major prize-giving for theatre voted for purely by the ticket-buying public.
Over 60,000 people took part in the voting for the 2013 Awards, which recognised the stage achievements of some of the biggest names in the worlds of theatre, film and music.
Click here for a full list of winners
The Awards were announced at a star-studded concert ceremony, hosted by actor-comedians Mel Giedroyc and Rufus Hound at the West End's historic Palace Theatre. Award winners Melanie C, Tim Minchin, Sheridan Smith and Natalie Casey performed alongside other nominees and stars of shows including The Bodyguard, Top Hat, Wicked, Spamalot and Soho Cinders.
Sweeney and Chichester cut the competition down to size
The gruesome twosome from Sweeney Todd, which ran at the West End's Adelphi Theatre last summer, Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton, took home the awards for Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musical for their respective roles as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and his pie-loving partner in crime Mrs Lovett. Sondheim's bloody Broadway classic converted every single one of its five 2013 nominations, also taking home Best Musical Revival, Best Director (Jonathan Kent) and Best Lighting Designer (Mark Henderson).
It's the second consecutive year of Whatsonstage.com Award success for Sweeney Todd, which last year won Best Regional Production for its original run at Chichester Festival Theatre. It beat off competition in all the key musical categories with two other Chichester transfers, Kiss Me, Kate and Singin' in the Rain. The latter, still running at the Palace Theatre, did scoop Best Choreographer (Andrew Wright), adding a sixth gong for Chichester.
Jesus Christ isn't the only Superstar
While Sweeney triumphed over it for Best Musical Revival, the arena tour production of Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar took home two other key wins: Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for Tim Minchin (who last year nabbed Newcomer of the Year for penning Matilda The Musical) and Melanie C for their roles as, respectively, Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene, which they'll reprise when the production kicks off a new arena tour from London's O2 in October.
Fittingly, the superstars performed their big numbers, "Heaven on Their Minds" and "I Don't Know How to Love Him", at the Awards Concert, returning the rock opera to the Palace Theatre, where it first had its West End premiere more than 40 years ago.
Elsewhere, one of 2013's most closely fought categories, Best New Musical, went to screen-to-stage blockbuster The Bodyguard, which triumphed over Irving Berlin compilation Top Hat by just 1.1% in the final hours of voting. Heather Headley, who plays Rachel Marron, the role originated by Whitney Houston in the 1992 film, led the cast of The Bodyguard in the rousing Awards Concert finale performance of "I Will Always Love You"/"I Wanna Dance with Somebody".
The most hotly contested race by far in the 2013 Awards was for Best Actress in a Play: just 0.9% separated winner Sheridan Smith (Hedda Gabler) from runner-up Billie Piper (The Effect), with strong competition from fellow nominees Jill Halfpenny (Abigail's Party), Julie Walters (The Last of the Haussmans), Sally Hawkins (Constellations) and Evening Standard and Critics' Circle winner Hattie Morahan (A Doll's House).
Smith is no stranger to the Whatsonstage.com Awards, having previously won for Best Actress in a Musical for Legally Blonde, been nominated a further two times (for Flare Path and Little Shop of Horrors), and co-hosted the Awards Ceremony no fewer than four times.
At this year's event, she wowed audiences with a special musical performance of comedy song "Stagey and Proud" shortly after collecting the gong for her play-acting talent. Smith's former Two Pints co-star, and also a Legally Blonde alumna, Natalie Casey scooped Best Supporting Actress in a Play for the Menier Chocolate Factory revival of Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party, which also won Best Play Revival.
In Best Actor in a Play field, Rupert Everett took the honours for his performance as Oscar Wilde in the revival of David Hare's The Judas Kiss, just transferred to the West End's Duke of York's Theatre following its run at Hampstead Theatre and on tour. He triumphed over other acting heavyweights Mark Rylance (for Shakespeare's Globe's cross-cast offering of Richard III and Twelfth Night), David Haig (The Madness of George III), David Suchet (Long Day's Journey into Night), Luke Treadaway (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) and Critic's Circle winner Adrian Lester (Red Velvet).
The Globe double bill, which has just completed a sell-out West End run at the Apollo Theatre, did take home three other key Whatsonstage.com trophies: Best Ensemble Performance for the company efforts across both plays, Best Shakespearean Production for Twelfth Night and, for his yellow garter-sporting performance as Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Best Supporting Actor in a Play for Stephen Fry.
In his acceptance speech, Fry said: "I am simply astonished. Seventeen years ago, I left this country in disgrace having run out of a play (Cell Mates) and I thought I might never return to the stage again. But thanks to the Globe, to Tim Carroll the director, the author William Shakespeare, and to the wonderful Sonia Friedman (producer), and most of all, to the audiences at the Globe and the Apollo, I have been back onstage in a wonderful play and had the privilege of playing with one of the best casts that has ever been assembled."
Curiouser and curiouser
In other play categories, the National Theatre's adaptation of Mark Haddon's 2003 best-selling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, was named Best New Play. After its sell-out run last year at the NT Cottesloe, the piece, adapted by Simon Stephens and starring Luke Treadaway as the Asperger's syndrome protagonist, reopens at Shaftesbury Avenue's Apollo Theatre next month. Another adaptation, Graham Linehan's stage version of the 1955 Ealing screen comedy, The Ladykillers, was named Best New Comedy.
Olympic legacy lives on
The thrill of London 2012 was celebrated in style as the Olympics Opening Ceremony, masterminded by Danny Boyle, received the coveted Theatre Event of the Year accolade, winning with an overwhelming 56% of the public vote and proving that it really wasn't just a celebration of sport but a demonstration of the best of British (and what's more best of British than theatre?). The ceremony, which involved 7,500 volunteer performers, was broadcast to an estimated global television audience of one billion.
Boyle, who last year won Best Director at the Whatsonstage.com Awards for Frankenstein, returned to collect the Theatre Event of the Year prize along with Opening Ceremony choreographer Kenrick Sandy and actors Jasmine Brieburg and Henrique Costa (who played the young couple in the Tim Berners Lee/modern Britain segment). Olympic gold medallist Peter Wilson presented the award in front of an audience that included scores of specially invited Olympic volunteers cheering on their "hero" Danny.
Nobody does it better
Another hero to many musical fans, the late Marvin Hamlisch, who passed away last August, was also honoured in Whatsonstage.com fashion. His score for the 2002 Broadway musical Sweet Smell of Success, which received its UK premiere in October at London's Arcola Theatre, received the inaugural prize by Best Original Music. The award was introduced this year, with the backing of sponsor Autograph, specifically to recognise the work of composers writing for the stage. With uncanny timing, the first major West End revival of Hamlisch's best-known musical, A Chorus Line, opens this Tuesday at the London Palladium. And next Sunday, his contribution to countless film scores, including The Way We Were and James Bond's The Spy Who Loved Me, will be commemorated by Barbra Streisand at the Academy Awards.
In his lifetime, Hamlisch was one of only 11 people to win all four major US performing awards - a Tony, an Emmy, a Grammy and an Oscar - not to mention a Pulitzer Prize. His widow Terre Blair flew into London especially to collect on his behalf and add a "Wossie" to Hamlisch's awards mantelpiece.
Meanwhile, as the new film version of Les Misérables attempts to build on its Bafta success and storm its own Oscar barricades next week, Cameron Mackintosh's original London stage production of Boublil and Schonberg revolutionary musical at Queen's Theatre tonight took home two prizes at the Whatsonstage.com Awards: Best West End Show, the prize for long-runners, and Best Takeover for Ramin Karimloo and his performance as Jean Valjean (played onscreen by Hugh Jackman). Karimloo, a previous Whatsonstage.com Best Actor in a Musical for Love Never Dies, battled off rivals including his co-star and Over the Rainbow winner Danielle Hope, who continues to star in Les Misérables as the lovelorn Eponine.
Another one-time reality TV winner, Will Young, was further rewarded for his successful transition from pop star to stage star, winning the London Newcomer of the Year prize for his West End debut performance as the lascivious Emcee in Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret.
Whatsonstage.com Awards tonight also went to: Broadway star Idina Menzel, the original Elphaba in Wicked, who nabbed Best Solo Performance for her 2012 West End concert; Tom Scutt, who was named Best Set Designer for his work on Constellations and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; the tenth anniversary revival of Boy George musical Taboo at Brixton Club House, which won Best Off-West End Production; and the UK premiere of Green Day's Broadway musical American Idiot, which scooped Best Regional Production for its autumn tour.
Comment and tallies
Terri Paddock, managing and editorial director of Whatsonstage.com, said, "2012 has been a hugely successful year for both the country and the theatre industry, and I am pleased to see Danny Boyle's Olympics legacy lives on in the artistic world. The Whatsonstage.com Awards are the only major ones decided across the board by the public and so unashamedly measure popularity as well as quality. The overwhelming response of 60,000 voters shows that the theatre remains a vital and important part of our society as well as a wonderful excuse for a bit of fun! Whatsonstage.com is proud to congratulate all the winners and the nominees who have produced an exceptional year of theatre for us all to enjoy."
"Chichester Festival Theatre has proven itself a major player in the theatre world, as its domination of this year's shortlists, and in particular the musical categories, demonstrates. We will all be closely watching the 2013 line-up at Chichester to see what the next big hits in the West End could be."
The 2013 Whatsonstage.com Awards were 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.
Attendees at the 2013 Awards included: Adam Garcia, Adrian Lester, Andrew Wright, Andy Nyman, Beverly Rudd, Bill Deamer, Billie Piper, Chris Larner, Chris Moyles, Daniel Crossley, Daniel Evans, Danielle Hope, Danny Boyle, David Ian, Dean Chisnall, Debbie Kurup, Edward Hall, Emi Wokoma, Fenella Woolgar, Flavia Cacace, George Stiles, Gina Beck, Hattie Morahan, Hildegard Bechtler, Howard Brenton, Humphrey McDermott, Imelda Staunton, Jill Halfpenny, Jim Carter, Jon Robyns, Jonathan Church, Jonathan Kent, Joshua Miles, Kyle Soller, Lee Curran, Lindsay Posner, Lloyd Owen, Lolita Chakrabarti, Luke Treadaway, Maria Friedman, Mark Quartley, Matthew White, Michael Ball, Michael Bruce, Michael Taylor, Nathan M Wright, Nick Payne, Paul Anderson, Peter J Davison, Ramin Karimloo, Richard Sisson, Rupert Everett, Scott Ambler, Simon Stephens, Sophie Thompson, Suzie Chard, Tamzin Outhwaite, Tim Hatley, Tim McInnerny, Tom Scutt, Vincent Simone, Vivien Parry and Will Young.
Final tallies for show wins were: Sweeney Todd (five), Twelfth Night (three), Abigail's Party, Jesus Christ Superstar and Les Misérables (two each), The Bodyguard, Hedda Gabler, The Judas Kiss, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Constellations/The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Singin' in the Rain, The Ladykillers, Sweet Smell of Success, Cabaret, Taboo, American Idiot and Idina Menzel in concert (one each). And for producing theatres, it was: Chichester Festival Theatre (six), Shakespeare's Globe (three), the Menier Chocolate Factory (two), the National, Hampstead, Arcola, Old Vic, Royal Court and Arcola Theatres (one each).
Check back soon for further coverage including photos and video highlights
THANKS TO ALL OUR SPONSORS: