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Olivier Awards 2014: Mormons, Ghosts, and Chimerica | reviews, news & interviews

Olivier Awards 2014: Mormons, Ghosts, and Chimerica

Olivier Awards 2014: Mormons, Ghosts, and Chimerica

Women prosper in an unusually egalitarian celebration of London theatre

`Look, Ma, I won!': Broadway veteran Gavin Creel (left) took home the trophy for Best Actor in a Musical for `The Book of Mormon'Johan Persson, also Chimerica below

Gavin Creel licked his trophy in delight, Zrinka Cvitešić spoke of making Croatian history, and Sharon D Clarke let out an exultant "wow" from the podium that was surely heard well beyond the walls of the Royal Opera House.

And so it was Sunday night at the 38th annual Laurence Olivier Awards, which coupled the occasional surprise (the win for Once leading lady Cvitešić very much among them) with the unusually meritocratic sense that for once - and not before time - the right people were receiving the right awards.

That was nowhere more true than of the actress prize for Lesley Manville, one of three awards justly delivered in the direction of Richard Eyre's superlative staging for the Almeida (and from there to the West End) of Ghosts, one of the two defining play revivals of the theatre year 2013 that was. "Where have you been all my life?" remarked Manville, clearly moved as she peered directly at her Olivier (pictured below, Manville and Jack Lowden in Ghosts). The year's other standout classic reclamation was Nicholas Hytner's era-defining Othello, which snared the actor prize for previous winner Rory Kinnear, beating out two other Bardic claimants (Jude Law's Henry V and Tom Hiddleston's Coriolanus) in the process. Kinnear reappeared alongside James Corden later in the ceremony to hand out the second of the night's two special awards, this one for Hytner and his producer, Nick Starr, for their distinguished output over the last decade or more on the South Bank. 

Elsewhere, it was ladies' night to an unusual and long-overdue degree, as might have been expected from a set of nominations that, for instance, featured a history-making trio of women up for best director. (Eyre was the lone man represented in that category.)

In the event, the directing prize to Lyndsey Turner was one of five awards that went to Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica (leading man Stephen Campbell Moore, pictured below), another Almeida entry that also made it to the West End and also under the producing auspices of Sonia Friedman. The prolific Friedman, in turn, had an extraordinary night that saw her productions win for best play, play revival, musical, and musical revival, that last - Merrily We Roll Along - presumably an especially sweet accolade given that the Stephen Sondheim title from 1981 marked the directing debut of the producer's sister, Maria, who was pipped to the directing trophy post by Turner. At the same time, the voting procedure has changed in recent years, giving SOLT membership more direct say over the winners and sidelining the independent panels that once held sway.

Stephen Campbell Moore in ChimericaBest Musical had about it an up-for-grabs feel, pitting two successive Tony winners, The Book of Mormon and Once, up against a critically acclaimed show (The Scottsboro Boys) that had been a Broadway flop and a homegrown London entry, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, that is big and lavish and... well, big and lavish. In the end, the Mormons prevailed, Broadway belter Gavin Creel - in his third West End show - beating co-star Jared Gertner to take the actor in a musical prize and the vibrant Stephen Ashfield a richly deserving winner in support: the overall haul for the show - four Oliviers - may not equal the nine Tonys that the South Park team's scabrous yet ultimately sweet-natured musical managed in New York, but it's better than might have been antcipated given some of the sniffier reactions to the show's UK premiere 13 months ago.

As for the ceremony itself? The usual grab-bag of inspiration and inertia as befits an event that will never match the sheer fizz of the Tonys in precisely the same way as the Baftas never have the personality - for good or ill - of the Oscars. The tradition of bringing over a Broadway baby or two - last year saw Idina Menzel and Matthew Morrison - presumably explained a late appearance by a still-luminous Bernadette Peters, who reached the very high note at the end of "Losing My Mind" often not attempted by interpreters of that particular Sondheim song.

Co-hosts Stephen Mangan and Gemma Arterton looked game enough, even if their exhortations to winners to keep their remarks to 40 seconds or less went unheeded by most - Manville especially, but who could blame her? And amid the copious plugs for Mangan's recent West End comedy, Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, which took its own Olivier in that category and is continuing on with a second cast, next to nothing was made of Arterton's forthcoming musical theatre debut in Made in Dagenham, opening this autumn at the Adelphi. Perhaps such mentions were saved for the edited broadcast,  which went out several hours later over ITV?

The audience award to Les Misérables did its bit to promote that show, as did the evening-closer appearance of Benny and Björn from Abba, which segued into the inevitable Mamma Mia! sequence. Wicked and Matilda got their moments in the spotlight, as well, which after all is the reason these awards exist in the first place: to sell the shows on offer to the public. Will The Book of Mormon return in years to come as that year's audience favourite? Time - and many a gleaming-eyed song-and-dance man (we're talking Mormons, after all) - will tell.

Overleaf: the full list of winners

BEST ACTOR: Rory Kinnear, Othello (National Theatre)

BEST ACTRESS: Lesley Manville, Ghosts (Almeida Theatre & Trafalgar Studios)


BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Sharon D Clarke, The Amen Corner (National Theatre)

BEST NEW PLAY: Chimerica (Almeida Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre)

BEST NEW COMEDY: Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense (Duke of York’s Theatre)

BEST DIRECTOR: Lyndsey Turner, Chimerica

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Gavin Creel, The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre)

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Zrinka Cvitešic, Once (Phoenix Theatre)


BEST NEW MUSICAL: The Book of Mormon


BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL: Merrily We Roll Along (Harold Pinter Theatre)

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER: Casey Nicholaw, The Book of Mormon

BEST ENTERTAINMENT AND FAMILY: The Wind in the Willows (Duchess Theatre)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC: Once – Martin Lowe for composition & arrangements, Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová for music & lyrics

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN: Tim Lutkin & Finn Ross, Chimerica; Paul Pyant and Jon Driscoll, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)

BEST SOUND DESIGN: Carolyn Downing, Chimerica; Gareth Owen, Merrily We Roll Along

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Mark Thompson, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

BEST SET DESIGN: Es Devlin, Chimerica


BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION: Puz/zle, Eastman, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui & Sadler’s Wells (Sadler’s Wells)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE: Michael Hulls for his body of lighting work including Ballet Boyz – The Talent (Sadler’s Wells)

BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION: Les Vêpres Siciliennes (Royal Opera)


BBC RADIO 2 AUDIENCE AWARD: Les Misérables (Queen’s Theatre)


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