The greatest live musical performances in the history of the Olivier Awards
Considered to be the most prestigious awards ceremony in London’s theatre calendar, the Olivier Awards celebrate exceptional productions which have been staged in the West End and affiliate theatres. So, we’ve gone through the archives of ceremonies broadcast to present our favourite live musical performances over the years.
There's special moments that have gone down in Olivier history, as well as performances from a variety of West End musicals still open in London today, with casts and creative teams coming together.
Come From Away
Winning best new musical at last year’s Oliviers, the 12-strong cast of Come From Away took to the Royal Albert Hall in a medley of hits from the show, inviting audiences to the Rock in spectacular style. During their five-minute performance, there’s excerpts from the opening and closing numbers in the show, with actors and musicians sharing the stage together, including Rachel Tucker who is now reprising her performance as Beverley Bass in the Broadway production. The musical went on to win four Olivier Awards and recently had its first anniversary at the Phoenix Theatre.
As well as writing Les Miserables, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil's Miss Saigon received unanimous praise from critics, with the musical running for a decade at Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Footage of the original company is hard to come by, but here's a video of the cast including Jonathan Pryce, Lea Salonga and Simon Bowman in a medley of Miss Saigon songs at the 1990 Olivier Awards.
After sweeping the Tony Awards in 2016, it’s no surprise that the West End production of Hamilton earned similar levels of critical success. Winning seven Olivier Awards, the Hamilton company gave their first public performance at the 2018 Olivier Awards, with Jamael Westman pausing after his first entrance on stage to allow for the audience to clap. If you’ve seen the musical or you’ve never listened to the soundtrack before, this Olivier performance captures the magic of the musical, also featuring Giles Terera in his award-winning role as Aaron Burr. The musical's currently in its third year at the Victoria Palace Theatre.
Even though the musical’s been in London since 1999, Mamma Mia! celebrated its 15th birthday with a special performance of the show’s greatest hits at the 2014 Olivier Awards. They’re joined by ABBA members Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson on stage for a one-off performance, getting the audience on their feet with a medley including “Thank You for the Music”, “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia!”. Last year, the show hit its 20th anniversary milestone at the Novello Theatre.
The Rocky Horror Show
It's become tradition for audiences going to The Rocky Horror Show to dress up as a character from the production. While this may not have been the case at the 1991 Olivier Awards, those at the ceremony got out our seats and did the "Time Warp" in celebration of the show's revival at the Piccadilly Theatre. The musical hasn't been revived in London for over 30 years, but we're hoping that we'll be able to do the time warp again one day.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
The biblical musical’s up for two Olivier Award nominations in 2020 including best musical revival, but a special 50th anniversary performance of Joseph took place at the 2018 Olivier Awards. During the medley, there’s appearances from Joe McElderry, Lee Mead and Jason Donovan as the title character. But, while you’re watching, see if you can spot Jac Yarrow in the choir, who’ll reprise his Olivier Award-nominated West End debut as Joseph at the Palladium this summer.
We Will Rock You
We Will Rock You is one of London’s longest-running musicals ever, having played a continuous run at the Dominion for over 12 years. But in 2012, the cast returned to the Oliviers with a performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, joined on stage by none other than Queen guitarist Brian May as he takes centre stage for the song’s guitar solo. It’s an electrifying performance of one of the musical’s stand-out hits, with the performers playing Galileo and Scaramouche, as well as Brian May left on stage to soak up the applause.
Matilda received a nomination in every eligible category it was possible for, with the musical’s original Matilda’s Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Sophia Kiely and Eleanor Worthington Cox sharing the award for best actress in a musical. At the 2012 ceremony, the quartet performed a one-off performance of “Naughty” together, receiving a standing ovation. Opening in the West End in 2011, the hit musical’s still running at the Cambridge Theatre today,
City of Angels
Taking home the award for best musical revival, audiences were treated to an excerpt from City of Angels at the 2015 Olivier Awards. During the performance, there’s an expectional duet from Rosalie Craig and Rebecca Trehearn singing “What You Don’t Know About Women”, as well as an appearance from Hadley Fraser as Stone. Craig and Trehearn are both currently reprising their roles as Gabby/Bobbi and Donna/Oolie respectively in the musical’s transfer to the Garrick Theatre, so if you’re a fan of this performance, then there’s another chance to see it live.
The dancing feet came to the 2018 Olivier Awards, as the 60-strong company of 42nd Street delivered a dazzling rendition of the musical’s title song. If you saw the show at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, get ready to be wowed by the acapella tap routine once more, as well as a sensational performance by Clare Halse as Peggy Sawyer. Halse’s back in a Golden Age musical this summer, set to star in Hello, Dolly! at the Adelphi Theatre.
It's London's longest-running musical, which recently re-opened with a brand new production at the Sondheim Theatre. But, have you ever seen the original cast perform? In this footage from the 1985 Olivier Awards, enjoy songs from Les Miserables including "I Dreamed a Dream" sung by Patti LuPone as Fantine, Frances Ruffele as Eponine and a stand-out performance of "Bring Him Home" sung by Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean.
The Lion King
Reaching its 20th anniversary at the Lyceum Theatre in 2019, the cast of The Lion King took to the Oliviers in a rousing medley that had the "Circle of Life" at the Royal Albert Hall. While you're watching the performance, see how many animal puppets you can count, whether they're on stage, paraded through the audience or soaring through the skies, with Simba lifted at the end.
Stephen Sondheim medley
From Company to Into the Woods, listen to a star-studded cast including Michael Ball, Ruthie Henshall and Maria Friedman perform in a one-off medley of Stephen Sondheim's greatest hits. Sung at the 1995 Olivier Awards, this medley features an array of songs from Sondheim's incredible musical catalogue.
Last seen at the London Coliseum in 2016, enjoy a Sunset Boulevard blast from the past in this video. Having taken over the role from Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley leads the company as Norma Desmond in a performance from the 1994 Oliviers in a sensational rendition of "With One Look".
Elaine Paige singing a song from Anything Goes
Regarded as one of Britain's finest musical theatre performers, a round-up of Olivier performances wouldn't be complete without Elaine Paige making an appearance. In 1989, Paige sung "I Get A Kick Out Of You" from Anything Goes, reviving the role of Reno Sweeney in London. Before then, Anything Goes hadn't been performed in London since 1935.
Receiving a joint nomination for best supporting actress in a musical, the Six queens transformed the ceremony into a loudest concert at last year’s Olivier Awards. In a mash-up of the show’s opening and closing numbers, the audience were wishing they had “five more minutes”. Some of the queens can now be seen in other West End productions, including Aimie Atkinson in Pretty Woman: The Musical and Millie O’Connell in Be More Chill.