Report from the Olivier Award Nominations 2016
Whilst a plethora of Oscar winners will be waking up today, suffering the mother of all hangovers and clutching their spanking new trophies, here in London the theatre awards season is only just getting into full flow with today's announcement of the nominations for the 40th Anniversary of the Olivier Awards, which took place at the luxurious Rosewood Hotel in Holborn.
An excitable crowd was gathered as multiple Olivier winners Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton (aka Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett) took to the stage to reveal the eagerly anticipated nominations. It came as no surprise that Ms Staunton herself was given the nod for her critically acclaimed efforts in the Chichester Festival Theatre revival of Gypsy at the Savoy in the category of "Best Actress in a Musical." I asked the theatrical powerhouse for her reaction to the announcement after Mr Ball's dramatic and extended pause before declaring her name:
"It was a surreal moment. You sort of have an out-of-body experience. My job this morning was to just read the nominations and there were so many for 'Gypsy' but you just have to get on with it. In a moment I'll step back and say: "Oooooh this is great! and I'll take it all in a bit later."
She is hotly tipped to take home the award, but that may not be the end of her journey as Mama Rose, as a Broadway transfer is now heavily rumoured: "Hmmmm. I sort of can't comment on that... Over to you, Michael!" she coyly replied, indicating that something might be in the pipeline, and turning to her co-presenter. "I'm actually taking 'Gypsy' over to New York," Michael Ball intervened, "Mama Rose is the role I was born to play."
Well, if David Suchet can get an Olivier nomination for his highly praised performance as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, what's to stop Mr Ball belting out "Everything's Coming Up Roses" eight shows a week? But first things first, as he will be taking on hosting duties at this year's awards ceremony the Royal Opera House on 3rd April. So can we expect a musical number or two from the man himself that evening?
"Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?! Yes, I think that's on the cards. We're planning it at the moment. A lot of it is down to what the nominations have turned out to be and we'll construct the show around that now. I would hate not to sing at the Oliviers. It's the most beautiful stage at the Royal Opera House. Even if they don't let me, I'm just going to sing anyway. I don't care!"
Best Musical Award nominees
Perhaps the most popular award of the evening is the Mastercard Best New Musical, which this year boasts two Broadway imports (In The Heights and Kinky Boots) and two home-grown musicals (Bend it Like Beckham and Mrs Henderson Presents). Sadly Gurinder Chadha's musical Bend It Like Beckham based on her 2002 film, despite receiving positive reviews, will have already closed by the time the awards ceremony comes round, but it is refreshing to see British musical theatre championed in a West End scene which seems more and more reliant on imports from Broadway.
Emma Williams, who received a nomination herself for "Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical" for her performance as Maureen in Mrs Henderson Presents said: "We should be very proud of this and celebrate British musical theatre because it is quite rare now to get a brand new show in London that is made by a completely British creative team. It's rarer than we realise and I think we should be proud of that fact."
On baring not just her soul but her whole body eight times a week at the Noel Coward Theatre, she added: "It's the most liberating experience of my life. It does wonders for your self-confidence!" The musical's legendary lyricist Don Black was also on hand and clearly moved by his show's nomination: "I'm elated at the moment. But musicals take years to put on. From the minute you say you'll do it, four or five years go by. It's a long, long, uphill fight but it makes it all worth it when you come here today and get all those nominations."
David Bedella, who previously won an Olivier Award for "Best Actor in a Musical" in 2004 for 'Jerry Springer - The Opera,' was also nominated this year for "Best Supporting Actor in a Musical" as he represented Lin-Manuel Miranda's West End premiere of In The Heights currently playing at the King's Cross Theatre: "It was a whole whirlwind the first time it happened with 'Jerry Springer' - it came and went and I didn't really know what it was," he gushed. "I feel like I can properly absorb it this time and that's nice."
Kinky Boots - nominated for 7 Awards
And finally, I also got to chat to the leading men of the West End premiere of Kinky Boots - Killian Donnelly and Matt Henry - who are also interestingly up against each other in the same category for "Best Actor in a Musical": "May the best man win," Matt Henry declared, "We both want each other to do well. It's not in our hands really, but for both of us to be nominated is such an amazing thing for the show itself. I am so happy for both of us."
His colleague Donnelly was also quick to share the love: "To be in a category with Matt is a prize in itself because I've seen how hard he's worked and it's the biggest pat on the back you can get." When I asked if Matt would be wearing something kinky and fabulous to attend the ceremony, Killian quickly butted in and assured me: "Matt will be wearing six inch heels on the red carpet! I'll just go in a suit, but he can turn up as my date as Lola. That would be amazing! Or we could both wear the red boots? Fantastic! It's one of those things where you promise that now and then decide the day before that this is the worst idea ever." Well, I for one think that would make for some utterly fabulous Red Carpet photos, guys.
Overall, there was a genuine buzz and excitement amongst the nominees at the Rosewood Hotel, who are all now waiting with baited breath for London Theatre's biggest and most glamorous night. All roads no longer lead to Rome, but to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden on Sunday, 3rd April, on a night sure to be filled with a host of nominated stars the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nicole Kidman, Kenneth Brannagh, Mark Rylance, David Suchet, Mark Gatiss, Gemma Arterton and Imelda Staunton, to name just a few. Stay tuned, theatre-lovers.
Click here for a full list of nominations for the 40th Anniversary of the Olivier Awards.