Glenn Meads: Oliviers 2013 Blog - View from the armchair
ITV screened highlights of the Olivier Awards yesterday night for the first time. Previous years have included problems with 'red button' footage, awkward moments involving red carpet arrivals and music cutting in during guest announcers' links.
This time, we open with Sheridan Smith singing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend and Will Young and the cast of Cabaret singing "Wilkommen." Sheridan Smith and Hugh Bonneville host the proceedings and although they don't share the chemistry of Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball, they do a good job.
The scheduling is not ideal though. We witness highlights and all of this does not begin until 10.15pm. Condensed highlights also mean that some of the footage looks stilted. For example, Elaine Paige doesn't seem to introduce Vicky Entwistle as she announces the audience award winner - Billy Elliot.
Even though she's dressed like a Quality Street, guest announcer - Kim Cattrall brings a tough of Hollywood, as she announces Best Actor in a play. And the deserving Luke Treadaway wins and is clearly gobsmacked. Likewise, Daniel Radcliffe announces Helen Mirren's win for the Audience - plugging The Lieutenant of Inishmore in the process. The show truly is a great advert for the West End and beyond.
Because the show is squeezed into a short space of time and severely edited, many awards are presented as a montage, including the Supporting awards and Set Design. A shame, as it devalues them - when aspects such as this are just as important.
Michael Ball gets recognition for his wonderful turn in Sweeney Todd and you are reminded how slick the evening is, in terms of televised footage. If only it was filmed using a delay - it would come across as instant as the BAFTAs or some of the bigger budget TV awards shows. As it is, it does feel shoe-horned and a bit rushed.
Guest presenters and performers such as Idina Menzel prove that the stars are lining up to sing or get involved. This gives the awards gravitas and appeal beyond Blighty. A fantastic rendition of "One Singular Sensation" from A Chorus Line gives you another reason to book a ticket to the West End.
Lee Evans eats his edible Olivier and even though the joke is not as hilarious as it might look if you were there, it is a darn sight funnier and less cringe-worthy than the awful red carpet footage we have seen in previous years. It's more about the Awards this year and what a platform for Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time which wins seven awards.
Poor sound mixes mean that Heather Headley's "I'll Always Love You" from the Bodyguard is not quite as stirring as you want it to be but the camera loves her. Best Entertainment and Family goes to Goodnight Mister Tom and audiences in the regions cheer as it also did well on tour.
I've always been a big advocate of celebrating ensembles so when Imelda Staunton does the same - following her win for Sweeney Todd, it doesn't feel like a luvvie moment, it feels like a celebration of theatre. Which is what this televised show and the Oliviers themselves are. You do get a sense of of the greasepaint, the curtain rising and the thrill of seeing a show. Although when Top Hat wins Best Musical, I am a tad shocked.
With Curious winning Best New Play and introduced by Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Thor and The Avengers), as well as many great British movies and plays. His presence brings home what happens when someone sees you on stage - ask the History Boys actors and many more.
The huge talent that is Gillian Lynne wins the Lifetime Achievement Award and the show closes with some fine promotion for Cats on Tour. Sure, not being live or even close to it means that none of the wins are surprising. But, the TV coverage is the best it's ever been and in terms of applauding and talking up British Theatre - it does just that.