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Norton, Garrett, Ball & Boys Launch WOS Awards

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Graham Norton will join Lesley Garrett, Michael Ball, Mel Giedroyc and the stars of Jersey Boys - Ryan Molloy, Stephen Ashfield, Glenn Carter and Philip Bulcock - in the exciting line-up at the launch of this year’s ninth annual Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre prize-giving to be decided by members of the public.

The star-studded launch party, at which all of the artists and shows in the 2009 awards running will be revealed, will be held at the London Hippodrome, home of new cabaret sensation {La Clique::E8821223888334}, at lunchtime on Friday 5 December 2008.

Guest presenters

Graham Norton, Michael Ball, Mel Giedroyc and the cabaret artistes of La Clique will help Whatsonstage.com announce the shortlists of nominations across the 20+ awards categories.

A regular theatregoer himself, television presenter Graham Norton has become a key Theatreland figure over the past three years as the host of BBC One’s musical casting competitions: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, Any Dream Will Do and this year’s I’d Do Anything, which found Jodie Prenger to star as Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh’s upcoming revival of Oliver! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

As half of double act Mel and Sue, Mel Giedroyc is also a familiar TV face from Channel 4’s Light Lunch, Late Lunch and other programmes. She co-wrote six Mel and Sue stage shows and is currently appearing in the West End, playing Eurovision host Boyka opposite Les Dennis in the musical spoof Eurobeat at the Novello Theatre.

Michael Ball, a key supporter of this year’s adopted charity TheatreMAD (Theatre: Make A Difference), won last year’s Whatsonstage.com Best Actor in a Musical Award – as well as an Olivier - for his cross-dressing role as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray at the Shaftesbury Theatre, where he’s extended his contract again due to popular demand.

The La Clique company will also take part in making the nomination announcements and fuelling the fun-filled atmosphere of the day. The international troupe - a cult hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – made their London debut earlier this month at the Hippodrome with their unique blend of circus, cabaret and burlesque.

Top performers

Performing at the launch party, much-loved opera soprano Lesley Garrett will sing the anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Carousel. Garrett stars as Nettie Fowler in Lindsay Posner’s new revival which, currently on tour, opens at the West End’s Savoy Theatre on 2 December.

Since the height of her operatic career with English National Opera, the Royal Opera House and others, Lesley Garrett has performed in operas and concerts around the world, released 12 solo CDs and regularly appeared on TV on programmes including her own series The Lesley Garrett Show. Garrett was awarded a CBE in the 2002 for Services to Music. She made her musical theatre debut two years ago playing the Mother Abbess in {The Sound of Music::L0713659374}, for she was nominated for a 2007 Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.

Top (l-r): Graham Norton, Lesley Garrett, Michael Ball;
Bottom: Mel Giedroyc, the Jersey Boys, contortionist Captain Frodo from La Clique.

Ryan Molloy, Stephen Ashfield, Glenn Carter and Philip Bulcock will sing a medley of Four Seasons classics from this year’s hit Broadway import Jersey Boys. The musical, which had its West End premiere at the Prince Edward Theatre in March, tells the story of Frankie Valli (played by Molloy) and the Four Seasons and their remarkable journey from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey to international success as pop music sensations with 175 million records sold worldwide. Amongst the Four Seasons songs included in the musical are “Sherry”, “Walk Like a Man”, “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Working My Way Back to You”.

Charity & voting

The launch party at the Hippodrome is held in aid of this year’s adopted charity, TheatreMAD (Theatre: Make a Difference) (See News, 12 Aug 2008). TheatreMAD and the Make A Difference Trust have been founded this year to support those living with HIV, AIDS and other long-term conditions who are facing hardship. Through their programme of Midnight Matinees of hit West End shows, Late Night Cabarets, the World AIDS Day Theatre Bucket Collection Appeal – this year fronted by Michael Ball - as well as one-off Gala events, they also raise funds to support those in need who have worked in theatre on-stage, front of house and back stage.

The nominations phase of the 2009 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards commences on the website next Monday 3 November 2008. All professional productions, from Fringe to the West End, opened in London between 1 December 2007 and 30 November 2008 are eligible for nomination. Productions opened during December 2008 will be considered as part of next year’s awards.

Shortlists will be announced at the industry-only event at the Hippodrome on 5 December, with final voting continuing on the website throughout December and January and the eventual winners announced in February 2009, ahead of our second annual awards concert, which is also open to the public, on Sunday 15 February. That event will also be held in aid of TheatreMAD. On behalf of Whatsonstage.com, the launch party entertainment is produced by Stuart Piper and the winners’ concert is produced by Stuart Piper and Jason Haigh-Ellery.

In a season that’s seen big musicals like Jersey Boys, La Cage aux Folles and Marguerite, epic projects including the Royal Shakespeare Company Histories at the Roundhouse, the launch of the Donmar West End residency and the Old Vic’s transformation for Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy The Norman Conquests, as well as acclaimed performances from Michael Gambon, Kenneth Branagh, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tamsin Greig, Ewan McGregor, Ralph Fiennes, Kelly Reilly, Kevin Spacey, David Walliams, Ian McDiamid, Penelope Keith, Jeff Goldblum, Josh Hartnett and many others, the 2009 Whatsonstage.com Awards are sure to be another hotly contested competition.

Our Sponsors

Whatsonstage.com is delighted to announce – particularly in light of the current credit crunch – that, for the 2009 Awards, we have received more industry support than ever before. To date, our sponsors include: theatre’s leading marketing and advertising agencies, AKA, Dewynters, EMG, Mobius and Target Live; Nick Hern Books, the UK’s leading independent theatre publishers and performing rights licensors; theatre and event ticketing providers Ambassador Tickets, See Tickets, Ticketmaster and Viagogo; stage lighting suppliers White Light; and casting directory Spotlight.

For the first time this year, we’re also making a limited number of sponsorship packages available to individuals. For information on theatregoers’ packages, click here.

- by Terri Paddock



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