And the winners were…looking back at the 2012 Olivier awards

So in the final analysis the 2012 Olivier awards ended ‘not with a bang but with a whimper’.  The relentless march of the Matildas’ continues apace, more than a match for T-2 in terms of remorselessly crushing all that stand in their way. The Evening Standard Awards pointed towards what was to come but the warnings weren’t heeded and on Sunday, at approximately five o’clock in the afternoon, the Matildas’ laid waste to another awards festival. The destruction, when it came, was all but total. 

Nominated in ten categories, the Matildas’ blitzed the competition in seven to break the RSC’s own record that has stood firm for over 30 years; back when Nicholas Nickleby made all bow before him. They took a clean sweep of almost all the major musical catagories, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best New Musical, Best Director & Best Theatre Choregrapher – the only break in the chain came with the surprising victory of Nigel Harman in Shrek: the Musical. It is thought his victory, as the vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad, only come about as judges mistook his diminutive stature for the infamous fifth Matilda, and awarded him the prize accordingly.

The other musicals kneel before the newly crowned queens of the West End. The big loser of the evening being the box office smash hit Ghost: The Musical. As unappealing as the concept may sound, it has unsurprising and dispiritingly been ‘box-office dynamite’. However not so much of a hit with the judges; going home empty-handed despite nominations in 5 categories.

Two rather more depressing news items is that London Road also managed to lose out in each of  its 4 categories. Each time nominated against a Matilda, each time losing out. Crush, Kill, Destroy. The other woeful piece of news is the fact that Les Miserables managed to somehow win the BBC Radio 2 Audience Choice Award. Seriously, how many awards does it need to win? Hasn’t it had enough, haven’t people had enough? We are going to get it rammed down our throats later in the year, as Oscar-magnet Tom Hooper and hotel-destroying-magnate Russell Crowe have been handed the reigns to put it into every multiplex in the country. Can we not have a break, please?

The Open Air Theatre’s production of Crazy for You continuing its late-blossoming West End success story, managing to snag two awards in just three nominations and taking home for hotly contested Best Musical Revival – fending off stiff competition from Singing in the Rain, South Pacific and the Wizard of Oz.

In the non-musicals (or plays, as some like to style them) it was a much closer fight. With no overall winner, Frankenstein and Anna Christie both walked away with two, whilst Collaborators and Roadkill ended up with one apiece. In the battle of the celebs, Jude Law lost out again (following the Evening Standard Awards) to the Jonny & Benny show in Frankenstein. If this seemed strange, what seems almost perverse is that Frankenstein picked up Best Lighting Design but Underworld’s magnificent pulsating score failed to win Best Sound Design and Mark Tildesley failed to even get a nomination for his epic set that made full use of the Olivier’s vast open spaces.

Ruth Wilson picked up a richly deserved Best Actress gong for Anna Christie, in doing so she fended fending off a series of  ‘A-List’ stars in Kristin Scott-Thomas, Lesley Manville and Celia Imrie; all of whom gave solid performances in rather less solid plays. Still a much-deserved win and one that suggest a bright future is ahead of her (if she can be kept away from the bright lights of the silver screen).

And talking of bright futures – in some of the most heart-warming news of the evening, Sheridan Smith completed her double by walking off with Best Performance in a Supporting Role for her role in Flare Path. This follows her Best Actress win in Legally Blonde last year and marks a triumphant return to the stage and is proof that she is capable of doing serious alongside light and frothy.

High energy, high kicks and hijinks

Crazy for You – Ivor Novello Theatre, Booking until July 2012

Fresh from its successful run at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre, Crazy for You has since transferred to the Ivor Novello Theatre. It seems a suitable home for a production that showcases the best of the 1930′s musical songbook. Whilst Novello contributed to a very British version of the musical comedy that had little in common with his American counterparts, Crazy for You’s chorus line routines, zinging one-liners and infectious melodies would appear to be closer to his taste than the overblown power chords, million pound sets and star billing of the modern day musical. It is both interesting and depressing to note Shrek: The Musical is in residency just two hundred metres up the road, and a stone’s throw from the Royal Opera House.

Having seen the show in its original run, it is interesting to make comparisons between the two. The Open Air Theatre is a daunting place to stage a show; the director needs to battle a large auditorium where small. intimate gestures are likely to be missed but without access to the same range of special effects and staging techniques available in a more traditional space.

There have been a few alterations during the transfer to the Novello, clearly with the aim of giving the show a little more spectacle, but these are only minor and there is a pleasing sense that there has been a deliberate decision to stay true to the spirit of the period. Whether it is due to being staged indoors, in more familiar surroundings, the dancing has become noticeably tighter. The routines have been slightly rechoreographed for the smaller stage and the chorus line display a uniformity and invention that is a necessity for reviving the true spirit of Broadway.  Click here to read the full review 

For a quick preview see the trailer below

(warning: this trailer contains moving images of Jeffrey Archer)

Time to cast your votes

As the nights draw in and the idea of schlepping down to the West End for an overpriced seat in an underheated auditorium begins to lose its appeal, it is time to join the Evening Standard in casting an eye over the years productions in order to bestow upon one the arbitrary title of Best Night Out. It is of course unfortunate that ‘Best Night Out’ is indelibly linked in my mind to provincial towns and phrases like ‘Mega-Bingo’ and ‘introducing Top Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood’, but we all have our crosses to bear.

So without further ado, the shortlist:




BATMAN LIVE (The O2 Arena, SE10)

Really, REALLY. It is hard to imagine the shortlist getting off to a more inauspicious start. I am not sure which marketing consultant drew a venn diagram between regular theatre goers and fans of Batman films. It is perfectly possible there are many. However they probably didn’t also consider whether all of these fans would rather rent The Dark Knight for a £3.99 than fork out extorniate prices to see Batman battle against a trio of his most deadly enemies: plot, character and action. Like all wars, there were no victors




CHICAGO (Garrick Theatre, WC2)

Yep, still here. After 14 years. As we move from Ute Lemper to Ruthie Henshall to Claire Sweeney to someone from Ugly Betty, one can only presume it is just as good now as it was then. If you are the last remaining person in London not to have seen it, rent the DVD. Its not great but at least its got Queen Latifah in it.




CRAZY FOR YOU (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, NW1 and Novello Theatre, WC2)
Ok, I actually like this. Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre are building a bit of a reputation for themselves carving out interesting musicals. Last years Into The Woods was revelatory and whilst Crazy For You doesn’t reach those exceptionally high standards, it is great to see a traditional Chorus Line musical hit London, and is comfortable the best musical of its type since the last major revival of Anything Goes.




JERUSALEM (Apollo Theatre, W1)

Still excellent. Still the best play of the 21st century. Still one of the best performances of the 21st century. If you haven’t seen it yet then beg, borrow or steal tickets for its latest London run. The staggering tour-de-force that is Rylance’s performance as Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron makes it hard to imagine it being revived with any other actor in the role.




LA SOIREE (Magic Mirrors, SE1 and Roundhouse, NW1)
Saw La Clique. Sure its much the same. Seen one burlesque show seen them all. Law of diminishing returnsprobably applies. At least it’s not Cirque de Effin Soleil.




LES MISERABLES (Queens Theatre, W1)

Do you hear the people sing? Not if I can help it.





OFFICE PARTY (Pleasance Theatre, N7)
Oh god, by its own admission its interactive. Please, please, please will companies stop making us poor audiences become part of the action I am paying you to act, not me. If I could act I would be up there to begin with. Probably best for stag nights and hen parties of people who feel a little bit above Spearmint Rhino.




ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (National’s Lyttelton, SE1 and Adelphi Theatre, WC2)
Far better than anyone expected. It is fair to describe this as the breakthrough hit of the summer and a reminder to everyone that James Corden is far more than ‘James Cordon star of Lesbian Vampire Killers’. A fine actor, a fine translation and an absolute comic treat that more than deserves its West End transfer.




THE PITMEN PAINTERS (Duchess Theatre, WC2)

Haven’t seen it. By all accounts it is very good and deserves its West End transfer for taking a wonderful story that is made even stronger by its veracity. Before deciding to book tickets it should be noted that it was created by Lee Hall; a man also responsible for Billy Elliot. My understanding is there is less dancing in this.




THE RAILWAY CHILDREN (Waterloo Station, SE1)
I really, really wish that I had managed to see this. By all accounts a lovely idea exceedingly well executed. In hindsight it makes perfect sense to stage this with a vintage steam train but actually using the former Eurostar platforms at Waterloo was a magical touch and all those who have seen it have managed a smile while stoically dabbing their eyes with hankies.




SHREK THE MUSICAL (Theatre Royal Drury Lane, WC2) 

So here is a great idea – we have a much loved character that has been slowly eroded by sequels that don’t quite live up to the imaginative reinvention of fairytale stereotypes of the first. Now how can we rejuvenate the brand? There must still be some money that can be squeezed from the pockets of parents somehow. How about a musical that strips all the magic from a fantasy land by spending an extorniate amount on a set, props and make-up that has 1/100th of the charm of the original film? C’mon people you might as well send a cheque straight to Stephen Spielberg.




WICKED (Apollo Victoria Theatre, SW1) 
Actually better than you might imagine. And now with Matt Willis from Busted. Hmm bad news for both the musical and Matt Willis’ solo career then.

If you actually want to vote in this thing (admittedly its not quite X Factor but its always nice to have a say) then you can do so here:

Let the best play win (and please please please don’t be Batman Live).