The 38th Olivier Awards took place last night (Sunday 13th April 2014) at The Royal Opera House. Hosted by Stephen Mangan (who recently starred in Jeeves and Wooster) and Gemma Arterton (soon to star in Made In Dagenham), the star-studded evening celebrated the past year in theatreland.
The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre) triumphed in the musical categories, collecting a total of four awards including the all-important Best New Musical title. Gavin Creel and Stephen Ashfield, both of whom continue to star in the production, won Best Actor in a Musical and Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical respectively. Meanwhile, Casey Nicholaw won Best Theatre Choreographer. The show has taken the West End by storm since opening last year and many had predicted its huge, well deserved awards success!
Elsewhere Zrinka Cvitešić won Best Actress in a Musical for Once (Phoenix Theatre) and gave one of the evening’s most emotionally heartfelt speeches. The production also won the brand new Sound Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music. Martin Lowe collected the prize for composition arrangements alongside and Glenn Hansard and Markéta Irglová for music and lyrics.
Mark Thompson was awarded Best Costume Design for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal Drury Lane) and, once again, Les Misérables (Queens Theatre) picked up the Radio 2 Audience Award which is the only Olivier voted for by the public.
Jeeves & Wooster In Perfect Nonsense (Duke of York’s Theatre) won Best New Comedy and Handbagged (which recently transferred from the Tricycle to the Vaudeville Theatre) won Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.
The evening saw a number of incredible performances, both at the Royal Opera House and from the Olivier Awards celebration on the ITV stage in Covent Garden which was hosted by Mylene Klass and West End leading man Michael Xavier.
I was surrounded by passionate theatre goers in Covent Garden. The first musical to take to the stage was Matilda (Cambridge Theatre), with one of the show’s young stars giving a ballsy rendition of ‘Naughty’. The show won a record breaking seven Olivier’s in 2012.
Next host Michael Xavier was joined by his new co-star Joanna Riding to give the crowd a sneak peek at The Pajama Game which, following a successful run in Chichester, transfers to the Shaftesbury Theatre from 2nd May. The pair performed ‘Hey There’, dazzling the audience with their impeccable vocal ability and natural charm.
The West End cast of Les Miserables (Queens Theatre) proved popular with the crowd. Firstly Tam Mutu gave a faultless rendition of ‘Stars’ followed by Carrie Hope Fletcher belting out ‘On My Own’ before the entire cast, led by Daniel Koek as Jean Valjean, united to perform ‘One Day More’. No matter how many times you see Les Mis, it never fails to impress and leave you with goose-bumps.
Wicked (Apollo Victoria Theatre) star Willemijn Verkaik made history by becoming the first West End Elphaba to perform outside in full costume. The Dutch performer, who has also played the role in Wicked’s Dutch and German productions as well as on Broadway, performed a mind blowingly brilliant rendition of ‘Defying Gravity’ from the MasterCard balcony in Covent Garden.
Inside the Royal Opera House all four of the ‘Best New Musical’ nominated shows performed. Alex Jennings stepped into his Willy Wonka costume for the first time, opening the ceremony with ‘Pure Imagination’ from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal Drury Lane). He takes over the role from 19th May 2014.
The casts of Once (Phoenix Theatre) and The Scottsboro Boys (rumoured to be transferring from the Young Vic to the Garrick) also performed, but it was the Olivier winning Gavin Creel who stole the night with a tremendous rendition of ‘I Believe’ from The Book of Mormon (Price of Wales Theatre).
The ceremony was brought to a close by Abba’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus who gave a rare performance alongside the West End cast of Mamma Mia! (Novello Theatre). It’s hard to believe Mamma Mia! recently celebrated its fifteenth birthday as the show is still so full of life.
After so much build up it’s sad that the Olivier Awards are over for another year. It was inspiring to see so much love and support for theatre and many have been tempted to catch the winning shows.
Here’s to another great year for West End theatre!
Photo credit: Johan Persson