Olivier Awards 2015 Nominations
The biggest news in the West End this week was, of course, the announcement of the 39th Annual Laurence Olivier Awards nominations on Monday. The Ruling Class and 'X-Men' star James McAvoy and Olivier Award winner Lesley Manville did the honours of announcing the nominees at a private ceremony at the Rosewood Hotel. So, here are my thoughts about how the West End's biggest (and most glamorous) night is shaping up...
Obviously, the first reaction I had was at the lack of National Theatre productions in the running. It has been reported that it is the worst Olivier results in over forty years for the National. David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's immersive musical Here Lies Love, which opened the newly named Dorfman Theatre (formerly Cottesloe), managed to pick up three nominations (Best New Musical, Best Theatre Choreographer for Annie-B Parsons, and Outstanding Achievement in Music for David Byrne and Fatboy Slim) and thus concludes the National's representation at this year's ceremony.
In hindsight, apart from the aforementioned Imelda Marcos-themed musical, I really haven't been blown away by the offerings I have seen at the National this season. Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Treasure Island seemed somewhat missed opportunities and Ballyturk was only ever going to appeal to a niche clientele. Great Britain was actually most enjoyable and thought-provoking, but not a top contender for Best New Play. Those were the only five National Theatre productions I watched last year, and I will be interested to see how this year's shows will fair. (On a side note, Man + Superman officially opened on 25th February 2015, which is the cut-off date for eligibility to be nominated for this year's awards, and still the prolific Ralph Fiennes didn't manage to get recognised.)
Other big-winner venues in recent years, such as the Donmar Warehouse, Royal Court and Almeida Theatre were also comparatively underrepresented this year, but congratulations certainly go to the Young Vic (one of the smallest West End venues) which led the way with 11 nominations in total, the most for a single venue.
It is true that this year the nominations favoured celebrities on the whole, which some regard negatively. However, more often than not, celebrities are nominated because they get to play the best (and most rewarding) roles. That is what draws them to the theatre (and take a big pay-cut in the process) in the first place - the chance to play a dream role like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire or Eddie Carbone in A View from the Bridge or the title role in Electra.
Just being a big celebrity doesn't always automatically equal an Olivier nomination. For example, notable celebrity actors left out of this year's honours include Martin Freeman (who portrayed Richard III at Trafagar Studios), Jane Horrocks (for East is East), Billie Piper (for Great Britain), and Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan (who starred in an acclaimed sell-out run of Skylight at the Wyndham's Theatre and are about to begin performances on Broadway)... and of course, Lindsay Lohan's West End debut was never going to get Olivier attention. And I guess Kevin Spacey's Lifetime Achievement-esque Olivier Award takes him out of the running for Best Actor for his acting master class in Clarence Darrow at the Old Vic?
Turning to the musicals, it was another dominating year for American exports with three of the four nominations for Best New Musical coming from New York - Memphis, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Here Lies Love. The surprise West End success of Sunny Afternoon, based on the music and times of The Kinks, was the only British entry. Made In Dagenham only managed to pick up two nominations (Best Actress in a Musical for Gemma Arterton and Best Set Design) and the unfortunate demise of I Can't Sing! The X-Factor Musical obviously continues to rest in peace unrewarded. Other Broadway imports such as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Pajama Game and, surprisingly, Urinetown also failed to make any waves - Scoundrels picked up just two nominations (Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical for Samantha Bond and Best Theatre Choreographer for Jerry Mitchell), whilst The Pajama Game and Urinetown left empty handed. The latter was one of my favourite and most refreshing shows of last year. Alas, I wasn't on the judging panel though...
All in all, I'm looking forward to this year's ceremony at the Royal Opera House on Sunday, 12th April 2015, which will also be broadcast on ITV, with great anticipation. Which of the Young Vic's two front-runners (A Streetcar Named Desire and A View from the Bridge) will take the upper hand? Or will it come down to Young Vic vs. Old Vic? Will Dame Angela Lansbury win her first ever Olivier Award at the age of 89? Are we heading for Lloyd Webber vs. McIntosh when Cats goes head-to-head with Miss Saigon for Best Musical Revival? Should we be getting ready for a royal showdown when King Charles III takes on Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies? And will it be a Beautiful night for Carole King or will they be partying in Memphis? Tune in on 12th April to find out the answers to these and a whole host of other questions for Theatreland's biggest night!
Editor at Londontheatre.co.uk & NewYorktheatreguide.com