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And the Whatsonstage.com Awards Winners Are...

Everyone who is nominated, they're the winners. Until February 20, of course, when the winners of the winners are announced at our concert in the Prince of Wales Theatre.

Meanwhile, Friday's nominations party went with a swing as usual at the Cafe de Paris, with terrific performances from Anna Francolini (under-selling "Broadway Baby" with sizzle to spare) and Sheridan Smith (flat out fabulous from Legally Blonde) and two distinguished guest speakers.

The first was Simon Russell Beale, drumming up support for The Theatrical Guild, this year's WOS-sponsored charity; the second by Equity president Malcolm Sinclair, drumming up support for the actors' union, addressing the crowd as "my darlings" and urging everyone -- no reading from notes necessary -- to sign up and fight the cuts, especially in the regions, where local councils are already slashing their support to our leading theatres in major cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Belfast.

Roy Hudd and Maureen Lipman generously helped out editorial director Terri Paddock with the announcement of nominees, and I think everyone agreed we managed to get through the parish notices with more speed and despatch than ever before.

Who won the fashion parade? Tamzin Outhwaite looked particularly splendid, but so did David Dawson, with his fashionable inside-out suit and his regulation eye make-up.

And all the TTG ladies cut a splendid dash: Liz Robertson, Issy Van Randwyck, Belinda Lang and Stella Richards, with secretary Karen Nichols shaking her collection buckets and giving out pens and postcards.

Prince of Wales house manager Billy Differ was surveying the scene, while top musical theatre agent Barry Burnett said that to meet me in public was always a pleasure and never a chore (he's so discreet it hurts).

Danielle Hope, revving up for Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, told me that she hasn't heard a note of any of the five new songs being written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice; Hilton McRae, recovering from the ecstatic opening of End of the Rainbow with Tracie Bennett, said he was well knackered; Laura Wade told me she had enjoyed my review of her nominated play Posh, which was very nice of her; I'd enjoyed it, too, but not nearly as much as the play itself.

And Ryan Gage, delighted that Trevor Griffiths' Wages of Thin had been nominated in the Off-West End category, revealed that Trevor was now writing a short companion piece to be played on a double-bill back at the Old Red Lion next year.
Other graciously participating nominees included David Suchet, Meera Syal, Emma Cunniffe and two friendly rivals in the Best Supporting Actor category en route to big musicals next year: Nigel Lindsay in Shrek and Adrian Scarborough in Betty Blue Eyes. And was that Scarlett or Summer Strallen, sibling rivals in the musical supporting actress section, who shimmered gorgeously for a while and was gone...

Rick Fisher lit up the room with some light remarks; he's nominated for fine work on Tribes, but will he withstand the oustanding challenge of Paule Constable on three fronts: Blasted, Posh and Love Never Dies?

And, as usual, it was great to catch up with some of the more sociable, party-going backbone members of the acting profession: William Hoyland, David Rintoul, William Gaunt, Michael Elwyn, Liz Crowther, Jaye Griffiths, Charlotte Randle, Tam Williams, Brian Protheroe, Matthew Marsh, Alan Cox and Dominic Rowan.

Thea Sharrock, whose production of After the Dance was one of the greatest in this or any other year at the National, sat modestly and quietly at a table with her designer, the un-nominated  Hildegard Bechtler (great curtains, though).

While Rupert Goold suggested that his National-nominated production of Earthquakes in London might be touring if the funds are forthcoming next year. It's not so much the threatened cuts, he says, as the sharp decline in box-office income that is affecting the plans of companies like his touring Headlong company.

People are simply beginning to think twice about going out. But for several heart-warming hours, no-one was going anywhere at the Cafe de Paris. It was time to take a short and care-free refuge from the stormy times ahead and the freezing cold on the streets. It was a long afternoon, but a great party.


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