For the first time since 2003 theatre goers and star gazers can enjoy the most important theatrical award ceremony, The Laurence Olivier Awards on March 13th at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The event will receive live coverage on BBC Red Button and BBC Radio 2 including live coverage from the red carpet.
The glamourous event is hosted this year by former Olivier award winners, Michael Ball for Hairspray in 2008 and Imelda Staunton for A Chorus of Disapproval and Corn is Green in 1985 and the musical Into The Woods in 1991. They will next be seen on stage at the Chichester Festival production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeny Todd for which he wrote the music and lyrics and it is American lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim who will receive the evening's highest honour when he recieves the Special Award in recognition of his contribution to British Theatre being the 25th recipient.
Some of the previous recipients include Sir Alec Guinness, Dame Judi Dench, Sam Mendes and Sir Peter Hall. Over a career spanning seven decades, Sondheim, 80, has won numerous theatre awards including an Oscar for best song in 1990 for Sooner or Later from the film Dick Tracy. Some of his best known works include West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and A Little Night Music.
In other awards The National Theatre scored the most nominations for its productions - 17 in all - while the Royal Court and Donmar have nine each.
Phantom of the Opera sequel Love Never Dies has the most nominations with in seven categories at this year's awards ceremony. The Andrew Lloyd Webber show is up for best new musical, while its stars Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess and Summer Strallen are in line for acting prizes. The National's revival of Terence Rattigan's After the Dance has six nods, while the Donmar's King Lear and the musical Legally Blonde have five. Love Never Dies and Legally Blonde will compete against Fela! and Love Story for the best new musical honour.
Legally Blonde star Sheridan Smith is up for best actress in a musical, as is Love Story's Emma Williams. In the best actor category, David Suchet's performance in All My Sons is nominated alongside Roger Allam's in Henry IV Parts 1 & 2. Derek Jacobi's King Lear and Rory Kinnear's Hamlet are also cited, as is Mark Rylance - winner of the award last year for Jerusalem - for his work in La Bete. Tamsin Greig and Sophie Thompson are up for the best actress prize for their roles in The Little Dog Laughed and Clybourne Park respectively. Tracie Bennett is also shortlisted for playing Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow, as is Nancy Carroll for After the Dance.
The Donmar's production of King Lear has five nominations. End of the Rainbow, The Little Dog Laughed and Clybourne Park are all up for the best new play award.
Presenters at the awards will include Benedict Cumberbath and Jonny Lee Miller now performing at the National Theatre in Danny Boyle's Frankenstein, Matthew Fox and Olivia Williams from Neil La Bute's In a Forest Dark and Deep at The Vaudeville, Elizabeth Moss from The Children's Hour at The Comedy, Rupert Everett, actor, screenwriter and novelist Mark Gatiss last seen on the stage at the Old Vic, Shrek Princess Amanda Holden, Elaine Paige, Spanish Prima Ballerina with the Royal Ballet Tamara Rojo, Patrick Stewart, Wizard of Oz's, Dorothy Danielle Hope and the Wicked's leading lady Rachel Tucker.
Highligts of the ceremony include Barry Manilow flying in to perform with musical star Kerry Ellis last seen in Oliver, new choreography commissioned by dance companies Thick Skin and Zoo Nation, and highlights from this year’s nominated musicals - Sweet Charity, Into the Woods, Love Story, Fela!, Passion, Legally Blonde and Love Never Dies - accompanied by the 72-strong BBC Concert Orchestra.
The evening will conclude with a special tribute to Sondheim featuring perfomers including Adrian Lester. You can see all the reactions to the results after the ceremony in a programme presented by Jane Hill and BBC arts editor Will Gompertz.