Blockbuster musicals top list for Laurence Olivier Awards

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Two of the blockbuster musicals of 2004, Mary Poppins and The Producers, dominated the shortlist for the most prestigious British theatre awards, the Oliviers, announced yesterday.

Two of the blockbuster musicals of 2004, Mary Poppins and The Producers, dominated the shortlist for the most prestigious British theatre awards, the Oliviers, announced yesterday.

After years in which the National Theatre swept the board, its commercial rivals fought back yesterday with nine nominations for the acclaimed West End production of Mary Poppins, directed Richard Eyre, former head of the National Theatre.

And The Producers, Mel Brooks' stage show which has impressed London just as it previously wowed New York, did almost as well with eight nominations. Its two stars, Nathan Lane and Lee Evans go head to head for the award of best actor in a musical.

Michael Crawford returns to the London stage in the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Woman in White, shortlisted for honours, one of five nominations for the show.

But the National Theatre, which had 20 nominations last year and even more the year before, gets just eight in 2004, mainly for The History Boys for which Alan Bennett is shortlisted for best new play.

And despite the dominance of the blockbuster musical, the outstanding musical production award will be fought over mainly by smaller shows including Grand Hotel at the Donmar Warehouse and Simply Heavenly and Sweeney Todd, both seen at the Trafalgar Studios.

Some of the most interesting clashes at the Laurence Olivier Award ceremony on 20 February come in the straight drama categories.

Ben Whishaw, the young actor plucked from obscurity by the director Trevor Nunn to play Hamlet is up against the award veterans Michael Gambon and Jonathan Pryce for best actor for their roles in Endgame and The Goat respectively.

Another bright newcomer Eddie Redmayne, who co-starred in The Goat at the Almeida, is in competition with Judi Dench for best performance in a supporting role. She has secured her 13th Olivier nomination for her return to the Royal Shakespeare Company after an absence of 14 years to appear in All's Well that Ends Well.

Terri Paddock, of the whatsonstage.com theatre website which has its own public vote, said there were "strange omissions" in the list, notably Royal Court productions and shows such as the Iraq war drama Stuff Happens and Buried Child at the National.

"It looks as if there might have been a backlash [because] the National has dominated so much and they're trying to bolster the reputation of the West End. But I don't think the shortage of National nominations is indicative of the year it's had."

The shortlists are drawn up by panels of five professionals and eight members of the public, with the winners decided by members of the Society of London Theatre.

In the non-theatre categories, all four nominations for outstanding achievement in opera go to the Royal Opera House and all four best new dance productions were at Sadler's Wells.

In the National Dance Awards of the Dance Critics' Circle, Jonathan Cope and Leanne Benjamin, both principals with the Royal Ballet, were named best male and female dancers. The Royal Ballet took five honours in all, including the prize for outstanding classical repertoire and outstanding artist honours for Lauren Cuthbertson and Thiago Soares.

The Rambert Dance Company took four including the outstanding modern repertoire award and outstanding artist for Amy Hollingsworth and Paul Liburd.

Matthew Bourne won a best choreography prize for Play Without Words at the National Theatre. A new award for young dancers, the Working Title Billy Elliot Prize, went to Taylor Davies, 13, from Swansea.

The Nominations

BEST ACTRESS
* Victoria Hamilton for Suddenly Last Summer (The Albery)
* Clare Higgins for Hecuba (Donmar Warehouse)
* Anna Maxwell Martin for His Dark Materials (The Olivier)
* Caroline O'Connor for Bombshells (The Arts Theatre)

BEST ACTOR
* Michael Gambon for Endgame (The Albery)
* Richard Griffiths for The History Boys (The Lyttelton)
* Jonathan Pryce for The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? (The Almeida and The Apollo)
* Ben Whishaw for Hamlet (The Old Vic)

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
* Samuel Barnett for The History Boys (The Lyttelton)
* Dame Judi Dench for All's Well That Ends Well (The Gielgud)
* Amanda Harris for Othello (Trafalgar Studios)
* Eddie Redmayne for The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? (The Almeida and The Apollo)

BEST NEW PLAY
* By The Bog Of Cats (Wyndhams)
* Festen (The Almeida and The Lyric)
* The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? (The Almeida and The Apollo)
* The History Boys (The Lyttelton)

BEST REVIVAL
* All's Well That Ends Well (The Gielgud)
* Endgame (The Albery)
* Hamlet (The Old Vic)
* Journey's End (The Comedy, The Playhouse and The Duke of York's)

BEST NEW MUSICAL
* Mary Poppins (The Prince Edward)
* The Producers (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
* The Woman In White (The Palace)

OUTSTANDING MUSICAL PRODUCTION
* A Funny THing Happened On The Way To The Forum (The Olivier)
* Grand Hotel (Donmar Warehouse)
* Simply Heavenly (Trafalgar Studios)
* Sweeney Todd (Trafalgar Studios and The New Ambassadors)

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
* Maria Friedman for The Woman In White (The Palace)
* Leigh Zimmerman for The Producers (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
* Laura Michelle Kelly for Mary Poppins (The Prince Edward)

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
* Lee Evans for The Producers (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
* Paul Hegarty for Sweeney Todd (Trafalgar Studios and The New Ambassadors)
* Nathan Lane for The Producers (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
* Gavin Lee for Mary Poppins (The Prince Edward)

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
* Michael Crawford for The Woman In White (The Palace)
* David Haig for Mary Poppins (The Prince Edward)
* Conleth Hill for The Producers (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)

BEST DIRECTOR
* Richard Eyre for Mary Poppins (The Prince Edward)
* Nicholas Hytner for The History Boys (The Lyttelton)
* Rufus Norris for Festen (The Almeida and The Lyric)
* Susan Stroman for The Producers (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER
* Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear for Mary Poppins (The Prince Edward)
* Adam Cooper for Grand Hotel (Donmar Warehouse)
* Susan Stroman for The Producers (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
* All's Well That Ends Well (The Gielgud)
* Festen (The Almeida and Lyric)
* His Dark Materials (The Olivier)
* Mary Poppins (The Prince Edward)

BEST SET DESIGN
* Festen (The Almeida and The Lyric)
* His Dark Materials (The Olivier)
* Mary Poppins (The Prince Edward)
* Suddenly Last Summer (The Albery)
* The Woman In White (The Palace)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
* All's Well That Ends Well (The Gielgud)
* Hamlet (The Old Vic)
* Mary Poppins (The Prince Edward)
* The Producers (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)

BEST SOUND DESIGN
* Festen (The Almeida and The Lyric)
* Suddenly Last Summer (The Albery)
* The Woman In White (The Palace)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT OR PERFORMANCE IN AN AFFILIATE THEATRE
* Kevin Harvey for Yellowman (The Hampstead)
* Aidan McArdle for The Shadow Of A Gunman (The Tricycle)
* Andrew Scott for A Girl In A Car With A Man (The Jerwood Theatre)
* The Tricycle Theatre for its production of Guantanamo

BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION
* Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Royal Opera House)
* Les Paladins (The Barbican)
* Peter Grimes (Royal Opera House)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA
* Ben Heppner for The Royal Opera's Peter Grimes
* John McFarlane for his designs of The Royal Opera's Peter Grimes and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Royal Opera House)
* The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House under the musical direction of Antonio Pappano for their season's work
* Thomas Ades and the Royal Opera House for the world premiere of The Tempest

BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION
* Northern Ballet Theatre's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Sadler's Wells)
* Royal New Zealand Ballet's Milagros (Sadler's Wells)
* Royal New Zealand Ballet's Romeo And Juliet (Sadler's Wells)
* Rambert Dance Company's Swamp (Sadler's Wells)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE
* Julien Macdonald for his costume designs for Richard Alston Dance Company's Shimmer at Sadler's Wells
* San Francisco Ballet for their season at Sadler's Wells
* The Royal Ballet for their recreation of Sylvia at the Royal Opera House
* Rambert Dance Company for the range and quality of new work in their November season at Sadler's Wells

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