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Oliviers Analysis: Curious Incident equals record seven wins; Top Hat, Sweeney Todd & The Audience also triumph

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The National Theatre’s stage adaptation of Marc Haddon’s best-selling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time has swept the board at this year’s 37th annual Olivier Awards, the UK’s equivalent of the Tony Awards, presented in association with MasterCard tonight (28 April 2013) at London’s Royal Opera House. It won a total of seven Oliviers, equalling the record set last year by another literary-inspired hit, the RSC’s musical version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

The play of Curious, which started life in the NT Cottesloe and is now running at the West End’s Apollo Theatre, triumphed in all but one of the eight categories it was nominated in. After its success at the Whatsonstage.com Awards in February, tonight it added another Best New Play gong to its mantelpiece, while also taking home big prizes for Best Actor (Luke Treadaway), Best Director (Marianne Elliott) and Best Supporting Actress (Nicola Walker) as well as Best Set Design (Bunny Christie and Finn Ross), Best Lighting Design (Paule Constable) and Best Sound Design (Ian Dickinson).

Curious vanquished its current Shaftesbury Avenue neighbour, Peter Morgan’s West End-originated sell-out The Audience, for the Best New Play title, but its star Helen Mirren was crowned Best Actress for her performance as HRH The Queen. She beat off competition from Billie Piper (The Effect, Hattie Morahan (A Doll’s House) and Kristin Scott Thomas (Old Times). Richard McCabe, who appears opposite Mirren as the Queen’s preferred PM, Harold Wilson, was named Best Supporting Actor.

Putting on the musical ritz

In the musical categories, Sweeney Todd, a five-time Whatsonstage.com Award winner this year, had more cause to celebrate tonight. Chichester Festival’s revival of the Sondheim classic, which ran in the West End last summer, repeated its Whatsonstage.com success in three categories, winning Best Musical Revival as well as Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musical for Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton, who starred as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and his pie-making partner in crime Mrs Lovett. The pair have co-hosted the Oliviers for the past two years.

The other big musical winner tonight, also with three gongs, was Irving Berlin-fest Top Hat, which is still running at the West End’s Aldwych Theatre. Based on the 1935 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film, the production scooped Best New Musical, Best Theatre Choreographer (Bill Deamer) and Best Costume Design (Jon Morrell).

Imelda Staunton & Michael Ball in Sweeney Todd

Elsewhere, A Chorus Line’s Leigh Zimmerman won Best Supporting Performance in a Musical and Billy Elliot nabbed the BBC2 Audience vote (over Wicked, Matilda and The Phantom of the Opera), while Long Day’s Journey into Night won Best Play Revival and Chichester transfer Goodnight, Mr Tom was named Best Family Entertainment.

Tallies and telling omissions

Apart from the seven National Theatre wins for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, in a year in which voting roles for the Oliviers were altered, it was slim pickings for London’s flagship subsidised theatres. In recent years, the Oliviers have been dominated by the likes of the National, Royal Court and Donmar Warehouse.

This year, beyond Curious, the only win for a London subsidised house was in the specified Affiliate Theatre category and went to the Royal Court for its season of new writing in its Upstairs studio space. On top of a paucity of nominations, the Young Vic, Donmar, Tricycle, Bush and Hampstead Theatres all went home empty-handed tonight, as did the RSC. The Almeida Theatre did not make the shortlists.

Another notable non-winner tonight was Shakespeare’s Globe (though it receives no government subsidy, it sits outside of the commercial West End), whose wildly acclaimed production of Twelfth Night, which transferred for a sell-out run at the West End’s Gielgud Theatre, failed to convert any of its four nominations, including Best Actor for former Globe artistic director Mark Rylance.

The final show tallies were: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (seven), Sweeney Todd, Top Hat (three apiece), The Audience (two), A Chorus Line, Billy Elliot, Long Day’s Journey into Night and Goodnight, Mr Tom (one apiece).

In the opera and dance categories, it was a good year for host venue, the Royal Opera House. Aeternum, by the Royal Ballet at ROH, won Best New Dance Production and Outstanding Achievement in Dance for Argentinian principal dancer Marianela Nunez, while American tenor Bryan Hymel won Outstanding Achievement in Opera for his ROH performances in Les Troyens, Robert Le Diable and Rusalka Best New Opera Production went to Robert Wilson and Philip Glass’ epic, five-hour Einstein on the Beach at the Barbican Theatre.

As previously announced, this year’s Special Award winners were choreographer and director Gillian Lynne, and playwright Michael Frayn, whose respective shows Cats and Noises Off are currently touring nationally.

The 2013 Oliviers were co-hosted by Hugh Bonneville and previous Whatsonstage.com host Sheridan Smith, who opened the evening with a performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”. The evening’s entertainment also included a live link to a free public Olivier Awards celebration in Covent Garden Piazza, hosted by Radio 2 presenter Claudia Winkleman and West End leading man Michael Xavier.

The Awards were broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, with extensive ceremony highlights broadcast shortly afterwards on ITV television from 10.15-11.50pm and then available on ITV Player.


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