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Andrew Rogers: Oliviers 2012 Blog - View from the piazza

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From the live relay onto the screens in the Covent Garden piazza the real awards sure looked glamorous, glitzy and starry. But above all it looked warm.

Still, if we hoi polloi weren't benefiting from the recent unseanonable warmth, at least the more traditional April showers held off.

Things had been going on in the pizza since 4.00pm with a portmanteau of show numbers hosted by Magic 104.5 FM DJ Neil Fox and former Wicked star Louise Dearman.

Members of the casts of Wicked, Stomp, Billy Eliot and Chicago took to the stage in costume to entertain the troops and it fell to Fox and Dearman to attempt to fill in the rather over-long gaps between the numbers - a task of such magnitude that it forced them to resort to banter so idle that it will probably find its benefits cut before too long.

Still, the crowd was appreciative enough and warmed up sufficiently for the live relay of the awards themselves at 6pm. And sure enough, there it was - the Olivier Awards 2012 live on the big screen - and there was Brian May! Playing the guitar! Silently!

There was no sound for several minute and then an announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are currently experiencing technical problems."

Ah, that'll be why there's no sound then.

It was a problem that repeatedly bedevilled the evening and each time people drifted away from the piazza disconsolately. We had been promised that during the interval the cast of Jersey Boys would be performing for us but while they are undoubtedly nice boys with some lovely tunes they really weren't quite enough of a draw to combat the miseries being inflicted by the technical problems and the plummeting temperatures.

But then suddenly - who was that on our stage? Only Olivier hosts Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton. It turned out they were here to oversee the presentation of the only publicly decided award - the BBC Radio 2 Audience Award for the West End long-runners.

Like Fox and Dearman, the Sweeney Todd co-stars found themselves with a bit of time to fill. "I could sing a song," suggested Staunton before launching into an impromptu verse of Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Why Walk when you can Fly?" to whoops of appreciation. "I don't know any songs," protested Ball when it was clearly his turn. But he gamely gave the crowd a verse of "Do you Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables.

The atmosphere in the piazza was - perhaps for the first time - rather joyful. And when Brian May and Elaine Paige joined the duo on stage to present the award to - as it turned out - Les Miserables it finally felt like a real event and the reception to the winners' subsequent barnstorming performance of "One Day More" while Liam Tamne clutched the Olivier was really rather stirring.

As darkness fell and the temperature dropped still further more people drifted away. The bewildering and unexplained appearance of Ronan Keating and what seemed like an hour long advertisement for The Mousetrap were not enough to hold the attention of the crowd. By the end of the evening the only real signs of life in the piazza were the signers who between them had gamely signed every spoken and sung word for five hours. They, surely, were the real troupers.

Whatsonstage.com is providing extensive coverage of the Olivier Awards.
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